Children whose mothers have taken folic acid supplements in late pregnancy are at greater risk of developing allergic asthma, researchers said.
According to a recent study by University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute, supplemental folic acid in late pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of asthma in children at the age of 3 to 5 years.
The timing of supplementation in pregnancy is important, one of the authors Michael Davies said, adding “folic acid supplements - recommended for pregnant women to prevent birth defects - appear to have “additional and unexpected” consequences in recent studies in mice and infants“.
“In our study, supplemental folic acid in late pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of asthma in children, but there was no evidence to suggest any adverse effects if supplements were taken in early pregnancy,” he said.
The study involved more than 500 women whose maternal diet and supplements were assessed twice during their pregnancy, with follow-up on their child’s asthma status at 3.5 years and 5.5 years, American Journal of Epidemiology reported.
Asthma was reported in 11.6 per cent of children at 3.5 years and 11.8 per cent of children at 5.5 years. Nearly a third of these children reported persistent asthma.
Current public health guidelines recommend that women consume a supplemental dose of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day in the month preceding and during the first trimester of pregnancy.