New Research on Folic Acid and Asthma

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If you’ve done any reading about pregnancy nutrition (on this site, or just about anywhere else) you’ve been told to take 400 micrograms or more of folic acid a day during pregnancy. Folic acid helps prevent a number of birth defects, including:

  • Brain defects
  • Spina bifida
  • Anencephaly

Some of these defects can even be fatal.

Unfortunately, there has been some research to suggest that there may be a link between taking folic acid during pregnancy and your baby having asthma later on in life. The existing studies on the topic didn’t show conclusively a cause and effect relationship, only that there seemed to be some correlation.

This, of course, raised concerns. Animal research further complicated the matter, suggesting that folic acid would actually affect the way that a fetus’ immune system would develop.

The most recent study, however, was unable to find any kind of causal relationship between folic acid and asthma.

The study looked at 3,200 children. Of those, 13 percent had asthma symptoms leading up to the age of eight. There was no statistical difference, however, between children whose mothers were taking folic acid during their pregnancy and moms who did not take it.

Not asthma, but wheezing

There was, however, a slight increase in the number of incidents of wheezing within the first year of a baby’s life among moms who took folic acid. However, there was no increase in any symptoms at all after the first year of age.

Worth the risk?

This new study demonstrates how truly important it is to get enough folic acid during pregnancy. Preventing neural tube birth defects outweighs the risk of wheezing by far.

Still, more research needs to be done. There have been other studies that suggest that late-term use of folic acid can cause an increased risk of asthma in children between the ages of three and eight.

Until research can demonstrate a definite causal relationship, most experts agree that it’s worth taking a folic acid supplement (or eating a diet that’s rich in folic acid each day) during pregnancy.

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