A major new study has found that folic acid improves cognitive development in children if taken throughout pregnancy.
The results of a follow-up study from a randomised controlled clinical trial (FASSTT Offspring Trial) has been published in BMC Medicine, revealing that children of mothers taking folic acid during pregnancy scored significantly higher in terms of cognitive development at age seven years compared to those when folic acid supplementation was replaced with a placebo after the first trimester. It is said to be the first study to demonstrate that there are benefits for infant neurodevelopment from continued maternal folic acid supplementation beyond the first trimester.
During the study, 70 children completed the assessment at the age of seven, and 39 at age three years. The researchers noted that at both time points, great proportions of children from folic acid supplemented mothers compared with placebo had cognitive scores above the median values.
Cognitive performance was evaluated using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-III) and at three years using the Bayley’s Scale of Infant and Toddler Development (BSITD-III). In both assessments, greater proportions of girls and boys from folic acid supplemented mothers compared with placebo had cognitive scores above the median value of 10 (girls and boys) for the BSITD-III, and 24.5 (girls) and 21.5 (boys) for the WPPSI-III tests.