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Original Articles By Dr. Lavin Featuring Expert Advice & Information about Pediatric Health Issues that you Care the Most About

Big News on Preventing Autism: A Particular Dose of Folic Acid Taken at the Right Time Can Actually Make a Difference

I recently had a very important conversation with the head of Project TENDR, the group working on preventing autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities that I helped present a Congressional briefing on.   Go to www.projecttendr.com and/or our recent postings on this for more details.

The big news I wanted to share with each of you, is that there is strong evidence that taking a certain amount of folic acid, before conception, can substantially reduce the risk of autism.

I know I have messaged before about this, but now we have a dosage and a timing to share.

It turns out the dose of folic acid necessary to get the protection is 800 mcg.

The usual vitamin pill has 400 mcg of folic acid (also known as folate).  The published data now find that 400 will not have much impact, 800 has a very large impact.

And, it turns out that the timing is important, it only works if you are taking it before conception and through the first trimester.
The important finding here is that if you start taking it once you find out you are pregnant, it is too late, it won’t work.

That raises a tricky question, how do you know when to start taking it if you can’t start once you know you are pregnant?  How does one take such a supplement for sure a month before conception through the first weeks of pregnancy?

The only way, of course, is to take 800 mcg of folic acid every day of your potential reproductive years.
Any other approach greatly increases the chances that you might become pregnant without the protection of the 800 mcg of daily folic acid in your system for at least a few weeks before conception.

How big a deal is this?
The head of Project TENDR has published studies on this showing that women who took 800 mcg of folic acid a day, prior to conception and through the first trimester, had children with 5 times less chance of developing autism.  So it is a very, very big deal.

Why not even a bigger deal?
Why doesn’t it do even more?  It also turns out the protective effect is greatest, and may be only, with women who have a common form of a gene for one of two folic acid metabolism genes, the MHTFR or the COM-T genes.  About 40% of all humanity has the sort of gene for either MHTFR or COM-T that makes taking 800 mcg of folic acid helpful.   One day, we may screen everyone to find out who may not need to take extra folic acid, but in the meantime, if you have a 40% chance of such a big benefit, I say take it!

BOTTOM LINES

  1. As stated in recent postings, we are entering a new era in our thinking about the key neurodevelopmental problems our children are likely to have- autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and intellectual disabilities.
  1. Published data, now, is showing that you can do something, now, that can reduce the chance that your baby will develop autism.
  1. That action is simple:  take 800 mcg of folic acid a day prior to conception and through the first trimester.  Nearly half of all women will enjoy a 5 fold reduction in the risk of their child developing autism.
  1. To do this, one must take 800 mcg of folic acid every day of their reproductive phase of life.  It does not work if you start when you find out you are pregnant.

We are very excited to share this news, and look forward to many more steps in this direction together.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

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