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Study: Could excess of folic acid lead to autism?

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich--A vitamin a day will likely keep doctors away, but according to a recent study, too much of a good thing could be bad.

New research found women with high levels of folic acid in their system while pregnant had an increased risk in having kids with autism.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health posted their findings May 11 of this year.

Women have been taking folic acid for decades to help prevent birth defects in their kids, and according to David Colombo, the Division Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Spectrum Health, women should keep doing so, adding that these concerns are premature.

"People are going to freak out, but they shouldn't," he said. "With the internet people have instant access to everything. They have instant access to sort of the title of the study or the quick soundbite from what it showed."

The researchers found that if a new mother has a very high level of folic acid, the naturally-occurring form of the vitamin, right after giving birth, the risk that her child will develop an autism spectrum disorder doubles.

Most moms involved in the study said they took multivitamins with both folic acid and vitamin B12.  According to the study, if both levels of those vitamins are high, the risk a child develops autism increases more than 17 times.

Colombo tells viewers to take everything you read with a grain of salt, adding that you can always talk to your doctor if you are concerned. But Colombo says the research shows an association, not a cause.

"Just because two things are associated, doesn’t mean their causative," he said. "We don’t know if it’s the folic acid that’s a problem, or it’s a disease we're treating with the folic acid, that increased the risk of autism in their next kid, like spina bifida."

Folic acid is essential in cell and neuro-developmental growth and reduces the risk for certain birth defects.

"Cutting the folic acid is a bad thing, because folic acid reduces the risk for spina bifida and cleft lip. It does a lot of good things," Colombo said.

Colombo suggests pregnant women take 1 milligram, or 1,000 micro-grams of folic acid a day.

"I don’t think any recommending body is saying 'stop folic acid'. Even the people who did this study and found the association said, 'look, don’t change your folic acid dose, we're not there'," Colombo said, adding that although the information can be daunting, he says the study does have some worth.

"It’s going to help us understand a very complex problem," he said, hoping the mystery of what causes autism can be solved soon.

Scientist say more research is needed in order to determine how much folic acid a pregnant woman should take.

According to AmericanPregnancy.org foods that contain folic acid include:Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, breads and rice.

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