Nutrition study brings new hope for Down's syndrome mothers

MOTHERS OF children with Down's syndrome appear to have problems absorbing folic acid, new research shows. The finding could lead to preventive measures against the disorder, which affects one in 1,000 births in Britain.

Down's syndrome is the most common genetic disorder in babies. Two babies a day are born with the extra chromosome, which causes learning difficulties and physical abnormalities.

Although the risk of giving birth to a Down's syndrome child increases beyond the age of 35 to one in 350, most babies with Down's syndrome are born to mothers under 30.

Scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who published the study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, said the results were a promising step towards a better understanding of Down's syndrome.

But they said it was too soon to tell whether adding folic acid to women's diets could improve metabolism and cut the rate of Down's syndrome, as with some other birth defects.

"Our preliminary research is promising. However, a larger clinical study is needed," said Jill James, a biochemist who conducted the research at the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research.

The study compared 57 mothers of children with Down's syndrome to 50 mothers of children without. The mothers' average age was 30.

Scientists found that more of the mothers of Down's babies had a genetic change in an enzyme involved in the metabolism of folic acid. It is already known that adding folic acid to diets normalises the body's metabolism of the nutrient and significantly reduces the occurrence of birth defects known as neural tube defects.

Doctors recommend that women take folic acid supplements prior to conception and in the first three months of pregnancy to reduce chances of having a child with spina bifida. Last year the FDA instructed manufacturers to fortify flour products with folic acid to cut the rate of neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Folic acid is found naturally in green leafy vegetables and other foods. Research has shown that increasing folic acid levels before conception lowered neural tube defects, which are serious and often fatal, by 50 to 70 per cent.

Now FDA researchers are studying whether extra folic acid intake would reduce the risk of Down's syndrome, Dr James said. Researchers needed to show whether folic acid would normalise this. "It works for neural tube defects, so it is worth checking," she said.

A spokesman for the Down's Syndrome Association said: "There is nothing available to predict whether mothers will have a Down's syndrome child at the moment, but this research is highly speculative."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions