A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2017 | Number 4, Volume 31

Prenatal vitamins may reduce autism risk

Mothers who take prenatal nutritional supplements may reduce the risk that their children will have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with intellectual disability, a new international study reports. 

Researchers in Britain, Sweden, and the United States used three separate analytical methods to investigate data from more than 273,000 mother-child pairs in Stockholm, Sweden. Children included in the analysis were four to 15 years of age by the end of 2011 and were born between 1996 and 2007. 

The data included information as to whether the women were taking folic acid, iron, and/or multivitamin supplements at their first prenatal visit. After adjusting for factors including child sex, birth year, number of maternal pregnancies, and maternal hospital stays, the researchers found that children of women who took multivitamins, with or without additional iron or folic acid, had a lower likelihood of being diagnosed with ASD with intellectual disability. They did not detect an association between folic acid or iron use and a diagnosis of ASD. 

The researchers say their findings cannot establish cause and effect. However, they note that all three of their analyses resulted in similar conclusions. 

They add, “Whether the association is specific to autism or reflects the risk of intellectual disability needs to be explored in future research.”


“Antenatal nutritional supplementation and autism spectrum disorders in the Stockholm youth cohort: population based cohort study,” Elizabeth A. DeVilbiss, Cecilia Magnusson, Renee M. Gardner, Dheeraj Rai, Craig J. Newschaffer, Kristen Lyall, Christina Dalman, and Brian K. Lee, British Medical Journal, October 4, 2017 (free online). Address: Elizabeth A. DeVilbiss, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University, 3215 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19104, [email protected]


“Multivitamins in pregnancy may be linked to lower autism risk in children,” news release, British Medical Journal, October 4, 2017.