Not Getting Enough Folate? Your Baby Could Be At Risk for Childhood Obesity

Just another reason to stock up on orange juice! 

Pregnant Woman Drinking Orange Juice wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Could not getting enough folate during pregnancy lead to childhood obesity?

Maybe. A new study just published in JAMA Pediatrics found that expectant mothers with low folate levels were more likely to have obese children. And in fact, the lower the mother's level, the greater the risk for obesity in the child.


This wasn't a little rinky dink study, either. The results came after researchers looked at more than 1,500 pairs of moms and kids (ages 2 to 9 years old) from low-income and minority populations who were followed before, during and after pregnancy as part of the Boston Birth Cohort.

Obese mothers in the study tended to have lower folate levels than normal-weight mothers. But when the researchers examined only the obese moms, they found that as long as they maintained adequate folate levels, their children were 43 percent less likely to become obese, compared to children of obese mothers with lower folate.

Which is why the researchers now say establishing an optimal instead of a minimal folate concentration may be beneficial for women planning to get pregnant—especially those who are obese.

"Maternal nutrition during pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on child health, as well as the health of a mother after pregnancy," said the study's principal investigator, Xiaobin Wang, M.D. "Our results suggest that adequate maternal folate may mitigate the effect of a mother's obesity on her child's health."

So what, exactly, is folate and how do we go about getting enough of it? According to the National Institutes of Health, folate is a B-vitamin that is naturally present in many foods (like orange juice and leafy green vegetables)—our bodies need it to make DNA and other genetic material. Previously, a lack of folate during pregnancy has been linked to neural tube birth defects.

For a complete list of foods naturally rich in folate, click here.