A new study suggests that women who start taking folic acid supplements before conception and early in their pregnancy may reduce their child’s risk of developing autism. But why? An understanding of how folic acid is used in the body, what chemical processes it is important for as well as information about a little known genetic mutation that can play a huge role may actually lead us to be even more optimistic than the study suggests about how autism can be prevented with folic acid.
A new Norwegian study recently published in the February 13th, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found women who take folic acid supplements four weeks before becoming pregnant and also during the first weeks of pregnancy have a lower risk of giving birth to children who eventually become diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)1.
This is great news, got me to thinking and has led me to review my knowledge of folic acid metabolism, what is the most effective form of folic acid, its role in detoxification of the body and the effect of a certain genetic mutation upon folic acid. This genetic mutation is found in 40% of all Americans and some report a much higher incidence in children with autism2. There is a simple and inexpensive genetic test to determine if the mother, father or newborn has this mutation.
So, follow my train of thought and logic here and see if we come to the same conclusion as to whether or not autism can be prevented with knowledge about this genetic mutation and using the right form of folic acid.
With the controversy about whether or not vaccinations cause autism never able to come to a definitive conclusion, something about this subject never made sense to me. Some populations that don’t vaccinate have almost no incidence of autism. Most that vaccinate have higher levels of autism than those who don’t. Most studies on this topic seem inconclusive. Arguments in favor of a vaccination connection can be countered with studies that prove the opposite…and vice versa.
Focus of research has been on the preservative thimerosal, as if that is the only chemical/toxin in the vaccination. Thimerosal was removed from many vaccinations years ago, except for influenza vaccines. Mercury, formaldehyde and other chemicals remain in most vaccinations.
Confusion exists even in well regarded studies. As an example, Thimerosal Containing Vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Critical Review of Published Original Data3 published in Pediatrics in 2004 contains many questionable conclusions. The authors compare thimerosal vaccines and vaccines with “trace amounts of thimerosal, introduced during the manufacturing process to ensure sterility” and conclude them to be “amounts so small that exposure is inconsequential”.
Comparing vaccines with thimerosal and vaccines with less thimerosal yields an emotional conclusion, not one based in fact as I don’t think any researcher can know without a doubt, how sensitive one person (infant) may be to even the smallest amount of a toxin versus another person…especially concerning a substance with so much controversy regarding its toxicity. And, they ignore the potential negative influence of the other chemicals in the vaccines. Some may logically agree that if man has created (chemical) or altered a product, the body will have a more difficult time with it than a natural product. Chemicals, especially drugs, cause side effects, natural products rarely do.
Additional studies look at ONE vaccine and conclude that that ONE vaccine has no effect on the incidence of autism seemingly without concern that a baby is given 16 vaccinations in the first 6 months and 27 in the first 2 years of life…not just ONE.
With pharmaceutical companies vigorously defending their market, how much of ANY study can be trusted? Will you trust your child’s life to them?
Herein lies the main concern. How much toxicity (chemicals) is a baby exposed to with all of the vaccinations and how able is that baby to detoxify those chemicals from their body without it affecting their neurological growth and maturity?
I believe the answer as to whether autism can be prevented with folic acid lies not with the vaccination itself, but with the health and ability of major detoxification pathways of the baby’s body to excrete the abundance of chemicals contained in the multiple vaccinations. There may actually be a logical chain of events that can explain the incidence of autism and knowing that…autism may become preventable.
What Does Folic Acid Do?
First, we know from the recent Norwegian study and others that supplementation with folic acid reduces the incidence of ASD. But how is it involved in the body so that it may have this effect?
Folic acid is an important cofactor in almost 500 processes in the body. One of those processes is called methylation. Methylation is a biochemical step that converts one molecule into another.
Methylation is involved in protecting DNA, energy pathways, the building of neurotransmitters and nerve sheaths and most importantly for our discussion, the creation of an amino acid called glutathione which facilitates certain types of detoxification pathways.
What Can Prevent Detoxification of the Chemicals in Vaccinations?
A poor diet lacking in folic acid could inhibit the production of glutathione and affect detoxification. Folic acid has been added to many foods, especially grains for many decades, so a deficiency of folic acid from the diet could occur, but is probably rare unless the diet is exceptionally poor.
Most interestingly, there is a genetic mutation that affects the use of folic acid in the body and is found in over 40% of all Americans2. To understand the importance of this mutation, we need to first learn more about folic acid and what the gene does that governs its use.
Folic acid is the common name for Vitamin B9 and is the term most understood by the public. It is found in food we eat and also associated with pregnancy, prenatal vitamins and risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid is routinely advised for pregnant women without regard as to whether or not they have the ability to convert it to the usable form.
The most useable form…used in hundreds of complex chemical reactions in the body…is called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) – also called L-Methylfolate. To convert folic acid to L-Methylfolate requires an enzyme called 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR).
Still with me? Hang in there and we’ll get through these important terms.
The building of the MTHFR enzyme requires a gene that carries the information about how to build it. This gene is also called MTHFR.
To complicate this story even further, there can be two defects of the MTHFR gene. Since we carry two copies of genes, one from each parent, it’s possible for an infant…or any of us…to have either one or two bad copies. If an infant has only one bad gene, they have a better chance of converting folic acid to the most useable form than does an infant with two.
Bottom line: a healthy non-mutated MTHFR gene is supposed to produce plenty highly functioning MTHFR enzyme which then…through a series of steps…produces the useable form of folic acid called L-Methylfolate. Remember, folic acid is NOT used in the body, L-Methylfolate is.
Without the enzyme to convert folic acid to L-Methylfolate, many chemical processes in the body are impaired. L-Methylfolate is involved in one of the most critical pathways of detoxification in the liver. For this reason, individuals who have insufficient levels of L-Methylfolate, be it from low folic acid ingestion or a genetic mutation, have diminished ability to detoxify substances that are routinely cleared through methylation because of the inability to create glutathione which facilitates the detoxification process. Both methylation and glutathione were mentioned earlier in this article.
An infant is given 27 vaccinations in the first 24 months of life. Those vaccinations contain chemicals that, though declared safe as individual compounds by the FDA, have NEVER been tested together. These chemicals have to be cleared from the infant’s body through methylation. Is it possible that it is the buildup of this many toxins (chemicals) in those infants…to whom their parents have passed the genetic defect…that is responsible for some children’s increased risk of having their neurological growth and maturity affected? Is this the cause of autism?
In a recent study, Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism9 published in Pediatrics in 2013, if you simply read the title of the study or news reports about it, one is led to believe that concerns about too many vaccinations in a two year period are unfounded. Problem is, the study only looked at children’s exposure to vaccinations during their first two years. That’s not a delayed schedule, that’s the normal schedule.
The study did look at the number of antigens in ALL the vaccinations given to about 300 children and considering that not all children get exactly the same vaccinations…it varies with doctors, their health care philosophy and some parents opting to not give some of the shots… they concluded that since some children receive less antigens than others, no difference in the occurrence of autism between those receiving the higher doses of antigens and the lower doses exists…in a two year period.
They suggest this should soothe parents fears about too many vaccinations being given in too short of a time frame. Would have been nice if they had compared a three or four year schedule to the normal schedule. They admit in the study that only approximately 10% of parents opt for a longer schedule.
Interestingly, in the last paragraph, the authors acknowledge the genetic influence that may contribute to autism:
“The possibility that immunologic stimulation from vaccines during the first 1-2 years of life could be related to the development of ASD is not well supported by the known neurobiology of ASD, which tends to be genetically determined with origins in prenatal development,5-8 although possible effects in early infancy cannot be ruled out completely.
Once again, the strong possibility that the cause of autism lies not with the vaccination itself, but with the genetic health and ability of major detoxification pathways to clear toxins out of the baby’s body.
Are some children with this defect protected for another biochemical reason unique to them? Not all children with this defect will get autism. Will you risk your child’s health without knowing if you have passed the genetic defect to them?
How to Prevent Autism with Genetic Testing
My hypothesis is that:
- If one agrees that the MTHFR genetic defect is responsible for or contributes to the possibility of autism, doesn’t it make sense for each parent contemplating pregnancy to get a genetic test to know their status and thus the potential status of their unborn child?
- If you and/or your spouse have one or both mutated copies, does it make sense to test your child before beginning vaccinations?
- If your child is found to have one or both mutated copies, would you add L-Methylfolate to their daily routine?
- If you have a young child active in the process of their many vaccinations, would you consider genetic testing for them to better understand the possible risks or would you consider the addition of L-Methylfolate to their diet regardless of utilizing any testing?
- With or without the genetic mutation, does it makes sense to slow down the recommended schedule of vaccinations to allow your child more time between them to clear these chemicals from their system? What impact…or lack of impact…would occur if you gave your child 27 vaccinations in 36 months instead of 24 months? How about 48 months? Does your child need ALL of the recommended vaccines?
If you are found to have this genetic defect or your child has it, the solution will be to take a specific form of L-Methylfolate…also called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and methylcobalamine (B12 – a cofactor) to compensate for your, your spouse’s or your child’s inability to convert folic acid into L-Methylfolate.
Please call my office to order the test for yourself, your spouse or your child. The simplest way I have found is to allow me to order a test kit for you, you then take it to a local doctor, independent lab or hospital lab for them to draw your blood and it’s shipped back to my lab for analysis. I can explain everything you need to know about how to accomplish this test. Cost of the test is $195.
What Form of Folic Acid is Best?
With knowledge of this genetic mutation, what form of folic acid is best for parents to use for their own health, for that of their unborn child or as of yet not conceived child or their infant child in the process of getting vaccinations?
Typical cheap, mass produced vitamin supplements only contain folic acid and are without any L-Methylfolate. Remember, the body CANNOT use folic acid, it must have the ability to convert it to L-Methylfolate.
Folic acid should NOT be given to anyone with a MTHFR mutation.
The research is so strong surrounding folate metabolism that any supplement company not including L-Methylfolate in their product should be considered behind the latest research and/or so profit motivated, they are willing to risk your child’s health by not including a slightly more expensive ingredient in their product.
Do NOT use their supplements!
Contains 800 mcg.:
- L-5 methyltetrahydrofolate
Provides the most active form of folate requiring no additional metabolic steps in order to be used by the body. Used by those with knowledge of a MTHFR mutation.♦
Contact Dr. Dahlman for exact dosage.
- L-5 methyltetrahydrofolate 800 mcg.
- Methylcobalamin (B12) 1000 mcg.
Provides proper folate AND B12 (methyl form) and is used to maintain proper homocysteine levels. Also contains Intrinsic Factor which may help B12 absorption. Also used by those with knowledge of a MTHFR mutation.♦
Contact Dr. Dahlman for exact dosage.
1. Association Between Maternal Use of Folic Acid Supplements and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children. JAMA. 2013;309(6):570-577.
2. Boris, M, Goldblatt, A, et al. Association of MTHFR Gene Variants
with Autism. J of Am Phys Surg, Volume 9, Number 4, Winter 2004.
3. Parker, S.K., Schwartz, B., et al. Thimerosal Containing Vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Critical Review of Published Original Data. Pediatrics. 2004.
5. Courchesne E, Mouton PR, Calhoun ME, Semendeferi K, Ahrens-Barbiau C, Hallet MJ, et al. Neuron number and size in prefrontal cortex of children with autism. JAMA 2011;306:2001-10.
6. Mefford HC, Batshaw ML, Hoffman EP. Genomics, intellectual disability, and autism. N Engl J Med 2012;366:733-43.
7. Dudour-Fainfray D, Vourc’h P, Tourlet S, Guilloteau D, Chalon S, Andres CR. Fetal exposure to teratogens: evidence of genes involved in autism. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2011;35:1254-65.
8. Holt R, Monaco AP. Links between genetics and pathophysiology in the autism spectrum disorders. EMBO Mol Med 2011;3:438-50.
9. Frank DeStefano, Cristofer S. Price & Eric S. Weintraub (2013). Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism, The Journal of Pediatrics, 2013.
♦ These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.