Taking folic acid around the time of conception could significantly reduce the number of babies with an autism spectrum disorder, a study suggests. In a review of 85,000 children born in Norway between 1999 and 2009, researchers found that moms who didn't take a folic acid supplement were 2.1 times more likely to have a baby with autistic disorder. Odds of taking a supplement were increased among certain moms, including those who went to college and didn't smoke; controlling for these factors, researchers found that folic acid was linked to a 39% lower risk of autistic disorder.
Before controlling for these factors, folic acid also appeared to cut the risk of Asperger syndrome and "pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified"; that statistical link disappeared, however, when researchers controlled for the variables, the Los Angeles Times reports. Taking folic acid later in pregnancy didn't seem to have an effect on autism spectrum risk, the scientists found. Worth noting: Autism is diagnosed much more often in the US than in Norway, despite the fact that US food manufacturers are required to add folic acid to breads, cereals, and other grains.