Folate and the Effects of Prenatal Alcohol on the Brain
Both folate deficiency and prenatal alcohol exposure are factors that affect the development of the brain, inducing severe malformation of the brain and/or impairment of brain functioning and behavior. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause a wide array of disorders in the fetal brain, from subtle changes in intelligence to profound mental retardation, which can be manifested as severe damage in learning capabilities or impaired adaptation abilities for their environments. Folic acid supplementation has positive effects on some of the brain dysfunctions that prenatal alcohol exposure can cause, since alcohol consumption decreases the absorption of folate, which is important for DNA and protein synthesis in brain tissues undergoing rapid growth and differentiation. In addition, the protective effects of folic acid and Vitamin B12 together seem better than either vitamin alone. The possible reasons might be that folic acid and Vitamin B12 are metabolically interdependent, therefore additional supplementation with Vitamin B12 may enhance the utilization and biologic effects of folic acid. However, it is notable that the simplest and most effective way to prevent brain malformation and disorders related to fetal alcohol exposure is to be far away from alcohol during pregnancy. Luckily, folate exists widely in foods, both plant and animal. It is abundant in green leafy vegetables, and liver and liver products also contain high amounts of folate, as does baker’s yeast.
KeywordsNeural Tube Defect Alcohol Exposure Folic Acid Supplementation Folate Deficiency Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Central nervous system
Deoxidized uridine monophosphate
Deoxidized thymidine monophosphate
Flavine adenine dinucleotide
Red blood cell
Recommended nutrient intake
Uracil DNA glycosylase
This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Beijing (No. 7092060).