January 12, 2007

Elevated Prenatal Homocysteine May Raise Schizophrenia Risk

An elevated serum (blood) homocysteine level is definitely not good for any person, but new research also suggests that it may not be good for the mother's developing fetus either. Fetuses exposed to elevated homocysteine levels in the third trimester of pregnancy seem to have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, research suggests.

Investigators report in the Archives of General Psychiatry that infants born to mothers with raised homocysteine levels during the third trimester of pregnancy (but not during the first and second trimesters) were more than twice as likely to later develop schizophrenia.

"Elevated third-trimester homocysteine levels may elevate schizophrenia risk through developmental effects on brain structure and function and/or through subtle damage to the placental vasculature that compromises oxygen delivery to the fetus," suggest Alan Brown (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, and New York State Psychiatric Institute, USA) and colleagues.

The researchers, Brown et al., suggest that a potential mechanism for the effect of raised third-trimester homocysteine levels on schizophrenia risk may include partial antagonism of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor.

Elevated homocysteine is considered to be a biomarker for potential cardiovascular disease, and has been correlated with a wide array of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, depression, schizophrenia and birth defects. Elevated homocysteine levels may be caused by B-vitamin deficiency, genetic factors, increasing age, kidney impairment, or other factors. Nutritional therapies that may help modulate some causes of elevated homocysteine are vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid, trimethylglycine, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

Pregnant women are already being advised to supplement with folic acid in the first trimester of pregnancy in order to reduce the potential for neural tube defects. The researchers stress that their findings suggest that folic acid supplementation by pregnant women might need to be continued in order to protect against the development of schizophrenia in their offspring.

"Thus, if future studies both replicate this association and support a causal link, then the continuation of folic acid supplementation into the second and third trimesters would merit evaluation as a strategy for prevention of schizophrenia in offspring."

Read the article: Raised prenatal homocysteine levels increase offspring schizophrenia risk

Original Journal Source: Elevated Prenatal Homocysteine Levels as a Risk Factor for Schizophrenia (Archives of General Psychiatry)

More about Folic Acid, Homocysteine, and Schizophrenia
Low Folic Acid during Pregnancy Ups Schiz. Risk?

Glycine and Homocysteine Levels in Schizophrenia

Folate, homocysteine, and negative symptoms in schizophrenia

Additional Reading:

Pregnancy-related Schizophrenia Risk Factors

Prenatal Doctor's Visit may be Three Months Too Late

Neurodevelopment and Schizophrenia


also from the recent news:

Higher Folate Levels Linked To Reduced Risk For Alzheimer's Disease

Posted by: CopperKettle at January 12, 2007 07:01 PM

More on Folate - in NewScientist.comFolic acid supplements rejuvenate older brains

Starts out... Folic acid supplements can improve mental performance and memory in people over 50, according to a new study.

Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid is naturally present in foods such as liver, spinach and beans, and is taken as a supplement by pregnant women to prevent the birth defect spina bifida in their babies.

Now, researchers have shown that folic acid, or folate, might also slow the insidious effects of age on the brain. ...

Posted by: Naomi at January 21, 2007 11:13 AM

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