Could Folic Acid Levels During Pregnancy Impact Childhood Hypertension?

MARCH 09, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that pregnant women take a daily supplement containing folic acid to protect babies against neural tube defects, but a recently published study finds that maternal folic acid levels could have an effect on a child’s blood pressure as well.
According to research published in the American Journal of Hypertension, babies born to mothers with cardiometabolic risk factors were less likely to develop high blood pressure if their mothers had higher folic acid levels during pregnancy.
The findings build on previous evidence of a link between maternal cardiovascular risk factors and high blood pressure outcomes in children, as well as the potential relationship between folic acid levels during pregnancy and offspring health. Higher folic acid levels have also been associated with a lower incidence of hypertension later in life for young adults.
In the study, researchers examined data from a prospective US urban birth cohort at high risk for elevated blood pressure. The team evaluated the effect of maternal folate levels weighed with cardiometabolic risks factors on offspring blood pressure in 1290 mother-child pairs. The participants included mothers with cardiometabolic risk factors (38.2%), hypertensive disorders (14.6%), diabetes (11.1%), and pre-pregnancy obesity (25.1%).
Out of the children in the study, 28.7% had elevated systolic blood pressure between the ages of 3-9 years old. The researchers noted that children with higher blood pressures were more likely to be born from mothers with pre-pregnancy obesity, diabetes, and hypertensive disorders.
Children whose mothers had higher folate levels were 40% less likely to develop elevated childhood blood pressure. The findings add further evidence that higher folic acid levels during pregnancy can be beneficial in protecting offspring from the effects of their mother’s cardiometabolic risk factors, although maternal folate levels were not alone associated with childhood blood pressure.
The researchers concluded that although the findings do not demonstrate a causal role of maternal folic acid in the development of high blood pressure in children, more studies should continue to investigate the relationship.
Colussi G, Catena C, Cogo P, et al. Elevated blood pressure in children of cardiovascular risk mothers: could maternal folic acid be the link? Am J Hypertens. 2017; doi .