Prenatal folic acid may lower the risk of obesity among children born small for gestational age

Data has shown that children born SGA — those with a birth weight below the 10th percentile for babies of the same gestational age — have a higher tendency to develop obesity.

To examine the joint effects of prenatal folic acid, iron and multivitamin supplementation on the risk of obesity in preschoolers born SGA, a total of 8,016 pairs of mother and child from Longhua District in Shenzhen, China, were included in a 2021 study.

The enrolled mothers completed a structured questionnaire about the child’s and parents’ socio-demographic characteristics, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), prenatal supplementation of folic acid, iron and multivitamin, and birth-related variables (mode of delivery, gestational age and birth weight).

The children’s weight and height were measured by trained nurses.

Findings from a series of binary logistic regression models indicated that prenatal supplementation of folic acid was associated with a lower likelihood of obesity in preschoolers born SGA.

In contrast, no significant associations were found between prenatal iron and multivitamin supplementation and childhood obesity.

In addition, crossover analyzes revealed that the combination of folic acid and multivitamin supplementation, and the combination of folic acid and iron supplementation, significantly decreased the risk of obesity in girls born SGA.

“When the analyzes were stratified by sex, the significant associations were found only in girls and not in boys,”​ the authors highlighted.

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