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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

The Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study is a population-based case-control study of Northern California families. Using standardized clinical assessments, enrolling 288 children aged 24–60, with autism and 144 with autism spectrum disorders, and compared them with 278 children who were developing normally. Researchers calculated the odds ratios for associations between autism and retrospectively collected data on maternal vitamin intake before and during pregnancy. They also explored interactions with functional genetic variants in select metabolic pathways carried by the mother or child.

clip_image002During the three months before pregnancy or the first month of pregnancy, mothers of children with autism were less likely than those of typically developing children to report having taken prenatal vitamins. In addition, there were greater risks for autism observed in some of the metabolic genetic variants, in those mothers who did not take prenatal vitamins preconception and/or in the first month. In short, the use of prenatal vitamins, taken preconception, may reduce the risk of having children with autism, especially for genetically susceptible mothers and children.

Commentary: Attention is being increasingly given to the preconception time period and the health and nutritional status of the mother in particular. This is distinct from the use of vitamins/minerals/herbs to enhance fertility in men and women. I’m encouraged to see research in this area, and to see positive results, in something as simple and affordable as prenatal vitamins is especially reassuring, and in something as daunting as autism, with the incidence increasing and as yet with an unclear cause. According to “Autism Speaks”, a leading science and advocacy organization, it is estimated that 1 in 110 children in US are diagnosed with autism. Government statistics suggest the prevalence rate of autism is increasing 10 to 17 percent annually. We clearly need to become more aggressive in understanding the potential causes and influences on autism, and be assertive in any prevention strategies that can reduce the incidence.


Schmidt R, Hansen R, Hartiala J, et al. Prenatal Vitamins, One-carbon Metabolism Gene Variants, and Risk for Autism. Epidemiology; July 2011 – Volume 22 – Issue 4 – pp 476-485

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