Folic Acid and Cognitive Development
January 5, 2020
Can folic acid help promote your baby’s cognitive development? According to a recent study, there may be a relationship between a mother’s folic acid consumption during pregnancy and a child’s cognitive growth.1 If you are thinking about pregnancy or are an expecting mother it’s important to understand the role of folic acid throughout pregnancy and it’s bioavailable forms found in some prenatal vitamins, like Prenate®.
Folic Acid and Baby’s Cognitive Growth
Folic acid, an important B vitamin responsible for cellular development, has been documented as an essential nutrient for women during preconception because it can prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) in unborn babies. However, researchers were uncertain whether continued folic acid supplementation had any positive impact on cognitive development beyond the first trimester. In a 2019 study published by BMC Medicine, a team of researchers and scientists aimed to discover the effect, if any, of continued folic acid supplementation during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.1
To do this, the researchers followed up with children of mothers who participated in a randomized controlled trial of folic acid supplementation during the second and third trimesters (FASSTT) in 2006 and 2007. The mothers who took part in the study received either 400 micrograms per day of folic acid or a placebo from the 14th week of gestational development to the end of pregnancy. The team then evaluated the cognitive performance of the children at ages 3 and 7. The study found a correlation between the children of mothers who were treated with folic acid supplementation throughout pregnancy and higher scores on cognitive testing.1
The bottom line? Although the research suggests additional studies are warranted, continued folic acid supplementation by an expecting mother throughout pregnancy may not only help prevent NTDs, but may also help promote cognitive development in her child.1
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin that our bodies use to create new cells. During pregnancy, a woman’s body is producing a lot more cells than normal, so additional folic acid supplementation is sometimes recommended by health care professionals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages all women who are reproductive age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.2
Folic Acid versus Folate Folic acid is man-made version of the nutrient folate, which naturally occurs in foods such as dark, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, fresh fruit, whole grains, eggs and more. Back in the late 1990s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required food manufacturers to fortify certain commonly eaten foods such as bread, cereal, pasta and rice with folic acid.3
Prenatal Vitamins with Folic Acid
It can be difficult for some women to get enough folic acid/folate from their diets alone. Expecting mothers may have a harder time meeting their growing need for folic acid during pregnancy. For that reason, many health care professionals recommend that pregnant women take a prescription prenatal vitamin that contains the recommended daily dose of folic acid.
Prenate®’s line of prenatal vitamins contains L-methylfolate, a bioavailable form of folic acid. Bioavailable means the nutrient is more easily and directly absorbed by the body. Even women who have a genetic mutation that makes it harder to metabolize folic acid can benefit from taking a prenatal vitamin with this specific form of folate. It may exhibits greater bioactivity than folate (the naturally occurring form found in some foods) or folate (the synthetic form that is added to some foods or supplements).4
Talk to your health care provider for more information on the Prenate® Family line of prenatal vitamins and how they may help promote healthy pregnancies.