NLM Director's Comments Transcript
Folic Acid & Severe Language Delay: 11/14/2011
URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/podcast/transcript111411.html
Women who took folic acid before and during pregnancy comparatively reduced their child's risk of severe language delay, finds an interesting study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Compared to mothers who did not take folic acid, women who took the dietary supplement before and during pregnancy reduced the risk in half that their three year old child would experience a severe delay in using language.
Specifically, the Norwegian study found just under one percent of three year olds experienced severe language delays when their mother did not take supplements before or during pregnancy. Just under one half of one percent of three year olds experienced severe language delays when their mother took folic acid before or during pregnancy. About the same percent of toddlers experienced a severe language delay when their mother took folic acid in combination with other dietary supplements.
The reduced risk of severe language delay also occurred after the study's researchers controlled for maternal education, weight, and other demographic factors. In other words, the findings suggest folic acid may be associated with reduced severe language delay irrespective of other pertinent factors during a pregnancy.
The study's findings were derived from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which tracked about 40,000 children from 1999 to 2008. The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study assesses how diverse medical and living conditions during pregnancy and early childhood impact a child's life and health. The current study found about one half of one percent of children have a severe language delay, which means a child can only speak one word and makes unintelligible utterances at age three.
The study's nine researchers explain Norway was an appropriate setting because national laws ban adding folic acid to processed foods. As a result, the study's control participants (who did not take folic acid) could only obtain it naturally within some foods. MedlinePlus.gov's folic acid health topic page reports folic acid is a B vitamin; breads and cereals fortified with folic acid are widely sold in the U.S.
The Norwegian-based authors acknowledge their findings are based on statistical associations, which fail to demonstrate how avoiding folic acid supplements during pregnancy causes language difficulties among infants and toddlers.
The Norwegian study also provides an interesting counterpoint to the two studies we covered in our last podcast, which challenged the efficacy of some dietary supplements. In one study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, older women who took folic acid, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, and multivitamins for almost two decades had a higher risk of death compared to non-users of dietary supplements. In a second study, also published in JAMA, men who took vitamin E experienced a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Overall, the Norwegian study reminds us that findings about the efficacy of dietary supplements vary ndash; and it is important to avoid generalizations.
MedlinePlus.gov's folic acid health topic page adds that folic acid helps the body make healthy new cells. Foods that naturally contain folic acids include: leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas, and nuts.
MedlinePlus.gov's folic acid health topic page provides comprehensive information about the use of folic acid. Besides overviews about folic acid [provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) and the Office on Women's Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services], a link to a separate CDC website addresses questions about the need to take folic acid supplements.
The CDC and Office on Women's Health overviews can be found in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's folic acid health topic page. The CDC question and answer link can be found in the 'related issues' section.
MedlinePlus.gov's folic acid health topic page additionally contains research summaries, which are available in the 'research' section. Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's folic acid health topic page, type 'folic acid' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'folic acid (National Library of Medicine).'
Other answers to basic questions about folic acid are available within the 'drugs and supplements' section near the top of MedlinePlus.gov's home page. The link provides information about folic acid's effectiveness as well as possible interactions with other medications, foods, and dietary supplements.
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NLM Director's Comments Transcript - Folic Acid & Severe Language Delay: MedlinePlus