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Folic Acid Late in Pregnancy Tied to Asthma in Kids

But supplements are still recommended in the first trimester, researchers say

FRIDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to women who take folic acid in late pregnancy are at increased risk for asthma, Australian researchers say.

The University of Adelaide study included more than 500 women whose diet and supplements were assessed during pregnancy. The women's children were checked for asthma at age 3.5 years and at 5.5 years. Asthma was found in 11.6 percent of children at 3.5 years and in 11.8 percent of children at 5.5 years.

"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," Michael Davies, an associate professor at the university's Robinson Institute, said in a news release from the school.

The researchers also said they found no association between asthma and dietary folate, which is found in green, leafy vegetables, certain fruits and nuts.

Pregnant women are advised to take a supplemental dose of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day in the month before and during the first trimester of pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects.

"Our study supports these guidelines, as we found no increased risk of asthma if folic acid supplements were taken in pre- or early pregnancy," Davies said. "However, these guidelines may need to be expanded to include recommendations about avoiding use of high-dose supplemental folic acid in late pregnancy."

The study was released online Oct. 30 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about childhood asthma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Adelaide, news release, Nov. 3, 2009

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