Food and Behaviour Research

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Prenatal folate, homocysteine and vitamin B12 levels and child brain volumes, cognitive development and psychological functioning: the Generation R Study

Ars CL, Nijs IM, Marroun HE, Muetzel R, Schmidt M, Steenweg-de Graaff J, van der Lugt A, Jaddoe VW, Hofman A, Steegers EA, Verhulst FC, Tiemeier H, White T. (2016) Br J Nutr.  Jan 22:1-9. [Epub ahead of print] 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.


Previous studies have suggested that prenatal maternal folate deficiency is associated with reduced prenatal brain growth and psychological problems in offspring. However, little is known about the longer-term impact.

The aims of this study were to investigate whether 
prenatal maternalfolate insufficiency, high total homocysteine levels and low vitamin B12 levels are associated with altered brain morphology, cognitive and/or psychological problems in school-aged children.

This study was embedded in Generation R, a prospective population-based cohort study. The study sample consisted of 256 Dutch children aged between 6 and 8 years from whom structural 
brain scans were collected using MRI. The mothers of sixty-two children had insufficient folate (9·1 µmol/l) and this predicted poorer performance on the language (B -0·31; 95 % CI -0·56, -0·06; P=0·014) and visuo-spatial domains (B -0·36; 95 % CI -0·60, -0·11; P=0·004). No associations with psychological problems were found.

Our findings suggest that 
folate insufficiency in early pregnancy has a long-lasting, global effect on brain development and is, together with homocysteine levels, associated with poorer cognitive performance.