Folate Levels & Pregnancy

“Proper maternal folate levels during pregnancy may protect children from a future risk of obesity, especially those born to obese mothers, according to a study led by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.”

To continue, “Folate, an essential B vitamin, reduces the fetus’ risk for neural tube defects, which are malformations affecting the brain, spine and spinal cord. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid (a synthetic form of folate) daily to reduce their children’s risk for neural tube defects. However, the role of maternal folate levels on a child’s future obesity risk was not known, especially among those born to mothers who are obese during pregnancy.

Furthermore, “The study team found a wide range of maternal folate levels, but observed an “L-shaped” relationship between maternal folate levels and child obesity. In other words, the lowest levels of folate correlated with the highest risk of child obesity. When folate levels reached approximately 20 nanomoles per liter (nm/L), which is within the normal range for adults, further increases in folate levels did not confer additional benefits, indicating a threshold or ceiling effect.According to the researchers, this threshold is higher than the standard cutoff for diagnosing folate deficiency (less than 10 nm/L).”

Finally, “Obese mothers in the study tended to have lower folate levels than normal weight mothers. However, when the researchers examined obese mothers only, they found that children of obese mothers with adequate folate levels (at least 20 nm/L) had a 43 percent lower risk of obesity compared to children of obese mothers with lower folate (less than 20 nm/L). The children in the latter group had higher body mass index-for-age z-scores (BMI-z)–a measure of body fat in children.

According to the authors, establishing an “optimal” rather than “minimal” folate concentration may be beneficial for women planning a pregnancy, especially obese women.”

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NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Proper maternal folate level may reduce child obesity risk: Study suggests an optimal level for pregnant women, particularly those who are obese.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160613122220.htm>.

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