Effects of maternal folic acid supplementation during pregna
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Folate is essential in early life, with conclusive evidence that periconceptional supplementation with folic acid (FA) effectively prevents the first occurrence and recurrence of neural tube defects (NTD). A recent study suggests that continued FA supplementation in pregnancy beyond the early period can benefit the neurocognitive development of the child.

The aim of this study by BMC Medicine was to evaluate the effect of FA supplementation throughout pregnancy on cognitive performance and brain function in the child.

Follow-up investigation of 11-year-old children whose mothers had participated in a randomized trial of Folic Acid Supplementation in the Second and Third Trimesters (FASSTT) in pregnancy and received 400?microgram/day FA or placebo from the 14th gestational week. Cognitive performance (Full Scale Intelligence Quotient, Verbal Comprehension, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning, and Processing Speed) was assessed using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. The neuronal function was assessed using magnetoencephalographic (MEG) brain imaging.

Of 119 mother-child pairs in the FASSTT trial, 68 children were assessed for neurocognitive performance at 11-year follow-up. Children of mothers randomized to FA compared with placebo scored significantly higher in two Processing Speed tests, i.e. symbol search and cancellation, whereas the positive effect on Verbal Comprehension was significant in girls only. MEG assessment of neuronal responses to a language task showed increased power at the Beta and High Gamma bands in children from FA-supplemented mothers, suggesting more efficient semantic processing of language.

Conclusively, continued FA supplementation in pregnancy beyond the early period currently recommended to prevent NTD can benefit the neurocognitive development of the child. MEG provides a non-invasive tool in pediatric research to objectively assess functional brain activity in response to nutrition and other interventions.

Source: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-021-01914-9
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