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Pregnancy vitamin link to asthma claim

Thursday November 5th, 2009

Pregnant womanResearchers say they have found a link between the folic acid supplements that women take in pregnancy and rising rates of asthma.

According to the findings, from Australia, women who take the vitamin in late pregnancy put their child at risk of asthma.

Researchers said the findings did not challenge existing guidelines - which say women should take folic acid before pregnancy and in the first three months.

But they called for guidelines to include advice to ensure women stop taking the vitamins in late pregnancy.

And if confirmed, the findings would challenge proposals to fortify flour with folic acid.

Folic acid is taken to prevent the development of spina bifida and neural tube defects.

The study of 500 women, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, links the taking of folic acid in late pregnancy to children developing asthma between the ages of three and five. Women were interviewed by research nurses during pregnancy.

More than 11 per cent of the babies that were born went on to contract the disease. The researchers estimate the risk of having asthma was about 23 per cent increased amongst children whose mothers took the vitamin in late pregnancy.

Researcher Professor Michael Davies, of the University of Adelaide, Australia, said: "In our study, supplemental folic acid in late pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of asthma in children, but there was no evidence to suggest any adverse effects if supplements were taken in early pregnancy.

"These findings show there is a potentially important critical period during which folic acid supplement dosages may be manipulated to optimise their neuro-protective effects while not increasing the risk of asthma."

American Journal of Epidemiology, doi:10.1093/aje/kwp315

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Australia | Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Diet & Food | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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