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Folate has recently made headlines following an article published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in preparation for a presentation on the topic during a conference. What did this study show? That higher-than-normal blood-levels of folate and vitamin B12 in women who have just given birth may be associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in their babies. What’s really the case? Is folate supplementation during the first trimester always advisable?
Folate, or folic acid, is one of the B vitamins, B9 to be precise. The only difference between folate and folic acid is that the latter is the synthetic form (found in supplements or fortified foods) while folate is the vitamin’s natural form, the one found naturally in foods.
B vitamins, including folate, are essential for the function of many of the body’s systems. They are used, for example, to transform carbohydrates into energy, but also contribute to the proper functioning of the nervous system. It’s for this reason that pregnant women, or those wishing to conceive, are advised to take a folate supplement, in order to help the growing baby develop a healthy nervous system.