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
Nutrients, before and during pregnancy, promote healthy births
Folic acid, multivitamins, healthy hearts
Women who took either folic acid or multivitamins, during or before conception, were more likely to give birth to children with healthy hearts compared to women not taking these supplements. In this study, doctors measured folic acid and multivitamin-mineral supplements in 63,939 mothers with a single birth between 2013 and 2018.
Overall, babies whose mothers took folic acid separately, or as part of a multivitamin-mineral supplement, were less likely to have congenital heart defects (CHD), especially critical defects. Children whose mothers began taking the supplements before conception had the greatest protection.
For mothers who took folic acid, their children were 59 percent less likely to have a critical CHD; 53 percent less likely to have a ventricular septal defect, and 40 percent less likely to have any CHD at all. When mothers took either supplement before conception, chances for a critical CHD declined by 74 percent.
Reference: Journal of Pediatrics; 2021, Vol. 9, No. 4, Published Online
DHA promotes full-term births
Women who supplemented with 1,000 mg of DHA per day beginning at 12 to 20 weeks pregnant, were much less likely to have a pre-term birth than women taking a lower dose. This is the first study to compare higher-dose DHA with the 200 mg in most prenatal supplements. In this study, doctors compared early pre-term births—those before 34 weeks—between women on the two different doses of DHA.
Overall, 1.7 percent of women taking 1,000 mg of DHA had a pre-term birth compared to 2.4 percent of women taking 200 mg. Benefits were greatest among women who began the study with low levels of DHA, with pre-term births of 2 percent for those taking 1,000 mg compared to 4.1 percent for women on the 200 mg dose. Doctors said this “dramatic decrease” in early pre-term births is “a game changer for obstetricians and their patients.”
Reference: Lancet-EClinicalMedicine; 2021, 100905, Published Online