- Folate plays a critical role in DNA methylation
- It assumes quite a significant role for expecting women
- Folate is a micronutrient, popularly known as B9
"Folic acid intake below the median and exposure to pesticides was associated with higher risk of autism than either low intake or exposure alone," said lead author Rebecca J. Schmidt, Assistant Professor at the University of California-Davis.
"These are all really important during periods of rapid growth when there are lots of cells dividing, as in a developing foetus. Adding folic acid might be helping out in a number of these genomic functions," Schmidt added.
Mothers who took less than 400 micrograms and encountered household pesticides had a much higher estimated risk of having a child who developed autism than mothers who took 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid and were not exposed to pesticides.
The associated risk increased for women exposed repeatedly. Women with low folic acid intake who were exposed to agricultural pesticides during a window from three months before conception to three months afterward also were at higher estimated risk.
While folic acid did reduce the associated risk of a child developing autism, it did not entirely eliminate it. Thus "it would be better for women to avoid chronic pesticide exposure if they can while pregnant," Schmidt added.
One of the previously conducted studies had linked mother's folic acid level with reduced risk of obesity in the baby. Another study published in the American Journal of Hypertension noted, "during the pregnancy phase, if the mother has had higher levels of folate it reduces the odds of elevated childhood systolic blood pressure by 40 per cent," IANS reported.