Folic acid sup­ple­ments don’t pre­vent pre-eclamp­sia, Cana­dian study shows

The Prince George Citizen - - Science - Sh­eryl UBELACKER

TORONTO — Tak­ing high-dose folic acid dur­ing preg­nancy does not pre­vent pre-eclamp­sia in women at el­e­vated risk for the po­ten­tially deadly con­di­tion, a Cana­dian-led in­ter­na­tional study has found.

The find­ing, which re­futes a long-held be­lief about folic acid’s pre­ven­tive role in pre-eclamp­sia, is ex­pected to al­ter the prac­tice of pre­scrib­ing ex­tra doses of the B vi­ta­min to high-risk preg­nant women world­wide.

Prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Dr. Mark Walker said the study’s find­ing doesn’t mean fore­go­ing low-dose folic acid, which is taken to pre­vent fe­tal neu­ral-tube de­fects, which can cause such con­di­tions as spina bi­fida.

“All women should take folic acid for at least three months prior to con­cep­tion,” said Walker, chief of ob­stet­rics and gy­ne­col­ogy at the Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal.

“I think it’s safe and ef­fi­ca­cious to take .4 to 1 mil­ligram of folic acid in a mul­ti­vi­ta­min through­out the preg­nancy.

“How­ever, those women who are at risk for pre-eclamp­sia, there is no ben­e­fit to be­ing on a high dose of folic acid.”

Pre-eclamp­sia is a con­di­tion caused by el­e­vated blood pres­sure as a re­sult of preg­nancy. It is the sec­ond-lead­ing cause of ma­ter­nal death in Canada af­ter ve­nous blood clots that go to the lungs. Each year, about 78,000 women around the world die from the con­di­tion.

The 2011-2016 study re­cruited about 2,300 preg­nant women at risk for preeclamp­sia, who were en­rolled at 70 cen­tres in five coun­tries – Canada, the U.K., Aus­tralia, Ja­maica and Ar­gentina.

Half the women were ran­domly as­signed to take four ex­tra mil­ligrams of folic acid daily, while the other half re­ceived a placebo pill.

“(What) we found was there was ab­so­lutely no dif­fer­ence be­tween the group treated with high-dose folic acid and the placebo,” Walker said.

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