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Pregnancy and Folic Acid Supplementation

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Founder of The Paleo Diet
February 14, 2013
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Dr. Cordain,

I just heard a study reported on NPR that reported that women who took folic acid supplements during early pregnancy reduced autism in their children. This conflicts directly with the info in your latest book, The Paleo Answer, about recommendations for folic acid supplements. Where do you stand on this? My wife and I are trying to have a baby I am unsure what to do with this new info.

Dr. Cordain's Response:

I stand by the more comprehensive data (and not a single study reported in NPR) I have compiled in my most recent book, with a myriad of references (check those, and decide for yourself!).

Folic acid is not necessarily equivalent in vivo to folate as they are two separate compounds. Folic acid from supplements must be converted into folate in the liver. Women need adequate folate stores to prevent neural tube defects (spina bifida in particular). Folate compromised women (which is a common situation among women who consume a typical western diet low in leafy greens, fruits and organ meats) can increase their body concentrations of folate by consuming artificial folic acid found in vitamins or fortified cereals.

Nevertheless, but there are metabolic and physiologic problems associated with folic acid supplementation which I fully describe in The Paleo Answer. My suggestion to couples contemplating pregnancy and producing healthy children free of neural tube defects would be to reduce or eliminate processed foods which contain little folate and replace them with leafy greens, fruits, organ meats and other naturally occurring foods rich in folate.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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