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New Study Shows Taking Folic Acid Cuts Autism Risk 40%

I heard this yesterday on NPR and found this article today on the Huffpost/AOL News. The critical factor is that a woman needs to be taking folic acid supplements BEFORE she gets pregnant:

With autism now affecting one in 88 children in the U.S., many parents are searching for any step they can take to help lower their child’s risk of developing the disorder. A new Norwegian study joins a small but growing body of research that suggests a simple, low-cost option already exists: Taking folic acid during the earliest stages of pregnancy could lower a child’s odds of developing autism by nearly 40 percent.

“This is a relatively inexpensive way that parents can take action to possibly prevent risk of tube birth defects and autism,” Alycia Halladay, senior director for environmental and clinical Sciences for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, told The Huffington Post. Halladay did not work on the new study, which was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday.

Researchers analyzed a sample of more than 85,000 children born in Norway between 2002 and 2008 to study the effect of taking a folic acid supplement — typically between 200 and 400 micrograms per day — from one month before a woman got pregnant to two months after. Some .10 percent of children whose moms took folic acid supplements were diagnosed with autism, compared to .21 percent of those whose moms did not — which is equal to 39 percent lower odds.

The study does not establish a cause and effect relationship between the vitamin and subsequent autism, and its authors do not know why folic acid may have a protective effect. Study researcher Pal Suren of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health told HuffPost that folic acid is critical to the synthesis of DNA, which could play some role in the connection. Folic acid may also affect how certain genes are turned on and off in the body, he hypothesized, saying it was “not biologically implausible” that folic acid supplementation has certain epigenetic effects.

The new study also raises questions about how much folic acid may be needed to lower autism risk, as well as what form it must come in.

“We do not know how other dosages would have affected the risk of autism, or whether it matters if folic acid is taken as single tablets or as part of a prenatal multivitamin supplement,” Suren said.

The researchers took steps to ensure that the decreased risk was not just because women who took folic acid were also engaged in other healthy behaviors. To control for that, they looked at fish oil use (assuming women who took fish oil were also likely to be healthy in other ways) and found no link between lower autism risk.

Since the early 1990s, groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service have recommended that all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent neural tube defects — birth defects of the brain and spinal cord including spina bifida and anencephaly. Since folic acid was added to the grain supply in 1998, the U.S. has seen a 26 percent decrease in those neural tube disorders, according to figures compiled by the March of Dimes.

The possibility of a link between folic acid consumption and lower autism risk is far more preliminary. A 2011, California-based study in the journal Epidemiology found that mothers of children with autism were less likely to have taken a prenatal vitamin in the three months before pregnancy or in the first month after getting pregnant, suggesting that so-called “periconceptional” use of prenatal vitamins may reduce autism risk. In the U.S., prenatal vitamins typically include between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid.

But folic acid is by no means a magic pill, experts caution. The fact that rates of autism diagnosis have skyrocketed in the past several decades despite more and more women taking folic acid shows how complex the origins of autism are. The exact causes of the disorder, which is characterized by social and communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors, are still unknown.

“This is one way that risk may be reduced, but this isn’t the only way,” said Halladay. “It’s an inexpensive way to potentially reduce the risk of autism, but there are a number of risk factors — genetics and other environmental factors — that solidly contribute to risk.”

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Experiment, Family Issues, Health Issues, Parenting, Statistics, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

The Church Remembers Absalom Jones

Imagine the difference that diligence and persistence and cheerful good humor made in the life of Absalom Jones, imagine all the lives he touched, imagine the obstacles and brutal life he experienced and overcame on his life’s journey. It is truly humbling to see what this saint achieved:

abs jones 300px

The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers Absalom Jones, Priest, 1818.

Pastor Absalom Jones was reared a domestic slave on a plantation in Delaware. His charm, wit, and sincerity gained for him the affection of all who knew him. He was able to save enough pennies, given to him as tips, to purchase for himself a primer, a spelling book, and a New Testament. This was the beginning of an insatiable quest for knowledge which was to occupy much of his life.

When he was sixteen years old his mother, five brothers, and one sister were sold, and he was taken to Philadelphia with his master. The more stimulating environment of the city, added to a desire to correspond with his mother, resulted in an intensified effort to learn. He went to night school and also studied theology under Bishop William White (see July 17), from whom he eventually received holy orders. He married, bought a house and land, and finally, at age thirty-seven,he was granted his freedom. Finding that Philadelphia’s “white” churches were not truly open to him or his people, he founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.

He was an exemplary pastor and an able student of Holy Scripture and human nature. He had found Our Lord and in his Name had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Jones bore witness, with his life, to the truth that all people are bearers of God’s image.

Give us strength to overcome those things that separate us, Lord Christ, that we may see your likeness in all people. Amen.

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Biography, Character, Cultural, Faith, Lent, Social Issues, Spiritual | Leave a comment

All Who Exalt Themselves Will be Humbled . . .

Today’s Ash Wednesday reading the Lectionary is a great reading for a season of introspection and meditation:


Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Pharisee and Tax-collector

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Spiritual | Leave a comment