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January 12, 2007
Elevated Prenatal Homocysteine May Raise Schizophrenia Risk
Read more... Schizophrenia Biology · Schizophrenia Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention · Schizophrenia Prevention
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)
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