Mothers’ folic acid improves child cognition
In this follow-up to a study of seven-year-olds we reported previously, boys and girls whose mothers took folic acid during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, compared to those whose moms took a placebo, by age 11, scored higher on cognitive processing speed tests, and 11-year-old girls scored higher on tests of verbal comprehension.
The study included healthy pregnant women, aged 18 to 35, with a single-child pregnancy, who had taken 400 mcg of folic acid in the first trimester and continued to take folic acid, or a placebo, until the end of pregnancy.
The original reason for the study was to find benefits beyond taking folic acid in the first trimester to prevent neural tube birth defects. Doctors explained, “Emerging evidence shows the period of rapid growth of the fetal brain later in pregnancy is particularly sensitive to maternal folate concentrations. Our follow-up study proves folic acid supports the developing myelin sheathing that protects nerve fibers and facilitates neural communication.”
Reference: BMC Medicine; 2021, Article No. 73, Published Online
Inulin balances infant microbiome
Evidence is increasing that populating the gut with good bacteria after birth has a long-term programming effect on health and immunity. In this study, 149 infants under four months old received a placebo formula or a prebiotic mixture of inulin oligosaccharides.
After six months, the prebiotic group showed higher total bifidobacterium counts, and higher proportions of bifidobacterium to total bacteria, compared to placebo. Stools in the prebiotic group were also softer, suggesting prebiotics had a beneficial effect on total daily amounts of crying. Infections also resolved more quickly in the prebiotic group.
Discussing the results, doctors said inulin oligosaccharides were well-tolerated and beneficial to infant gut microbiota, and that the shorter duration of infections, in particular, suggest a possible interaction between healthy gut flora and immunity.
Reference: Nutrients; 2021, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1276
Kids Deficient in Nutrients
This study measured nutrient levels in 9,848 children, aged one to six years, and found several common deficiencies. For vitamin D, 80 to 90 percent were not getting enough; for omega-3 DHA, 98 percent fell short. For vitamin E, 69 percent didn’t get enough, and more than 7 percent were anemic from low iron. Levels were also low for calcium, choline, fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6 in a significant percentage of the children.
“The early years between the ages of one and six are a period of rapid physical, social, and cognitive growth, and a nutritionally adequate diet is an important factor for optimum development,” doctors said.
Reference: Nutrients; 2021, Vol. 13, No. 3, 827