Prenatal Folic Acid Fortification May Affect Cortical Development

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Gestational exposure to folic acid fortification is associated with cortical development.

HealthDay News — Gestational exposure to folic acid fortification is associated with cortical development, according to a study published online July 3 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Hamdi Eryilmaz, Ph.D., from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted a retrospective, observational clinical cohort study among 292 youths (Massachusetts General Hospital [MGH] cohort) aged 8 to 18 years born between January 1993 and December 2001 (inclusive of the folic acid fortification rollout ±3.5 years). Replication, clinical extension, and specificity were examined in two independent cohorts.

The researchers observed exposure-associated cortical thickness increases in bilateral frontal and temporal regions and emergence of quadratic age-associated thinning in temporal and parietal regions in the MGH cohort. Exposure-associated delays of cortical thinning were also seen in the contemporaneous Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC); they were located in similar regions and with similar durations of delay as in the MGH cohort. In the PNC cohort, flatter thinning profiles in frontal, temporal, and parietal regions were correlated with lower odds of psychosis spectrum symptoms (odds ratio, 0.37 to 0.59). In the non-exposed National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Normal Brain Development, all identified regions displayed earlier thinning.

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“The results of this study suggest an association between gestational exposure to fortification of grain products with folic acid and altered cortical development and, in turn, with reduction in the risk of psychosis in youths,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Pamlab for unrelated projects.

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