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Women who take folic acid during pregnancy more likely to have emotionally stable children

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PHOTO: Courtesy of www.globalhealth.duke.edu

Children whose mothers take folic acid throughout their entire pregnancy are more emotionally stable than those who do not, a study has found.At present expecting women are only recommended to take a supplement of 400 microgrammes of folic acid, for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The recommendation is to ensure proper development of the brain – and to prevent spina bifida.But researchers from the University of Ulster carried out a study looking at the long term effects of taking the supplement. They gave supplements of folic acid – which is found naturally in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, to 22 mothers while the other 19 took it just for the first three months, as recommended by NICE guidelines. After this the mothers were given a placebo.

Dr. Tony Cassidy told the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Brighton that follow up interviews at the age of seven found that the children whose mothers took the supplement the entire time had significantly higher levels of emotional intelligence and resilience and bigger vocabularies. Emotional intelligence is the ability to control and express emotions and handle relationships with others. Resilience is the ability to deal with problems in life.

Cassidy said: “Given it has this positive effect we wanted to know whether it would have a positive effect beyond three months.“We found there was an advantage for children whose mothers had taken folic acid for verbal IQ and reasoning compared to those who did not take the folic acid. We were also looking at emotional intelligence and resilience. We found significant benefits for the children whose mothers took folic acid.”

He said that he expected that if further trials show the same results, there would be a strong case for advising mothers to keep taking the folic acid at the recommended level after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

He said: “There is no evidence for any downsides with the amounts people were taking, on the basis that the only evidence for damage is if you take an excessive amount, and given that it’s possible there is growing evidence there are some beneficial effects mothers should continue with the recommended amount.”

He added that it was not known why folic acid has these positive effects, but it is suspected that it boosts language development in the brain.He said: “In terms of how it affects emotional intelligence, we are speculating the effect on language development leads to better communication with the parent and leads to more child parent interaction.”

The researchers next step is to study the effect on the children at the age of 10.
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online



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