Too Much Folic Acid In Pregnancy May Predispose Female Offspring To Diabetes, Obesity

shutterstock_108190541Mothers who are taking too much folic acid during their pregnancy may have an unlikely effect on their daughters later on. A study by a Portuguese research team indicates that excessive folic acid intake by mothers during pregnancy can predispose their female offspring to obesity and diabetes later in life. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Endocrinology.

Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto and the Catholic University of Portugal gave female rats about 20 times the recommended amount of folic acid from their period of mating to their pregnancy and lactation. The female rats gave birth to babies who grew up to be overweight and insulin resistant as they become adults. The researchers also noted that the babies grew up deficient in the hormone adiponectin, which is known to protect against diabetes and obesity. The effects of the excessive folic acid seem to be more pronounced in female adult rats in the said study. On the other hand, female rats that were given the recommended daily amount of folic acid give birth to babies that grew up into healthier adults.

Folic acid is an essential nutrient known to reduce the risk of babies suffering from neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid intake is particularly critical during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. The WHO or the World Health Organization recommends healthy pregnant mothers to take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Women with a history of neural tube defects are recommended to take 5 mg of folic acid daily.

While experts agree on the recommended daily amounts for folic intake among pregnant mothers, only few studies have looked into the safe upper limit of folic acid intake. This is important as more and more pregnant mothers are consuming increasingly high amounts of folic acid due to food fortification policies and the wide availability of supplements and multivitamins.

According to Prof. Elisa Keating, lead author of the said study, “While taking a minimum of 0.4mg of folic acid per day is essential when pregnant, our study shows that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Considering the increasing amount of folic acid consumed during pregnancy through fortified foods, multivitamin pills and supplements, the search for a safe upper dose of folic acid is urgently needed”.

The researchers will continue studying how folic acid affects the metabolism in rats and how the findings can be applied to humans.

Source: Society for Endocrinology. (2015, February 10). Taking too much folic acid while pregnant may put daughters at risk of diabetes and obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 11, 2015 from


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