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26-07-2010 | Bone health | Article

Folic acid improves both mother and baby’s bone health


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MedWire News: Supplementation with folic acid for the duration of pregnancy appears to inhibit bone resorption and promote bone formation in mothers and their newborn infants, a study of bone turnover markers shows.

Neonates born to mothers who took folic acid throughout pregnancy also had better overall birth outcomes and apgar scores compared with those who did not take it until term, Arash Hossein-nezhad (Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran) and colleagues report in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Metabolism.

Folic acid has a critical role in fetal development, DNA synthesis, and cell proliferation. Adequate folic acid intake is important before conception and at least 3 months afterwards to reduce the risk for fetal neural tube defects.

In the current study, the researchers recruited 113 healthy pregnant women aged 15 to 42 years with a gestational age between 8 and 12 weeks, and followed them up until delivery.

Participants were randomly assigned into one of two groups: women who took 1 mg of daily folic acid supplement from the beginning of the pregnancy until the end of the second trimester (group I), and women who chose to continue their daily intake of folic acid until delivery (group II).

Following delivery, venous blood samples were collected from mothers and the umbilical cords of the neonates.

The researchers found that serum levels of osteocalcin (OC) and osteoprotegerin (OPG) were significantly higher in mothers from group II than group I, at 8.11 versus 4.78 ng/ml and 6.23 versus 5.46 pmol/l, respectively. Conversely, serum levels of receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL) and homocysteine were significantly higher in group I than in group II, at 0.23 versus 0.12 nmol/l and 11.05 versus 8.47 µmol/l, respectively.

Neonates born to mothers in group II had higher serum levels of OC than those born to mothers in group I, and also had better overall birth outcome parameters and apgar scores.

The researchers explain that the balance between OPG and RANKL is central to bone resorption, whereby OPG inhibits osteoclasts by competing with RANKL. Meanwhile, OC is a marker of osteoblastic cells and consequently bone formation.

Thus, folic acid supplementation for the duration of pregnancy appears to improve bone turnover outcomes in mothers and their infants.

"The complete nature of folic acid's effects on bone metabolism has not yet been fully understood, so a series of investigations are needed to reveal unknown elements of this process in the intrauterine period," Hossein-nezhad et al conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Andrew Czyzewski

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