By: Dr. James Adams, Chair of the Neurological Health Foundation via healthynest
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not not reflect the opinions or views of Ovia Health.
As both an expert and a parent, I am passionate about making sure that every baby gets the right, high quality nutrition from the very beginning, because it makes a lifelong difference.
I’m James B. Adams, Ph.D., and professor at Arizona State University where I direct the Autism and Asperger’s Research Program. I cofounded the Neurological Health Foundation (NHF) and I’m the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board. We are a non-profit organization devoted to optimizing the health of women during pregnancy so they can have the healthiest infants possible, free of physical and neurological issues. We focus on providing guidelines, programs and education to help parents optimize their baby’s development so that they can reach their full potential.
At NHF we are very concerned about infant health today. The rates of autism, ADHD, obesity and allergies are all growing far too fast. And they have a common lynchpin, with pre-natal nutrition being a key factor that we know can help reduce the risk of these conditions.
There are several important things that a woman can do to help her body be as healthy as possible before and throughout pregnancy: avoiding exposure to toxic metals and chemicals, having regular prenatal care, taking a comprehensive prenatal supplement and ideally waiting 18 months between pregnancies.
When it comes to prenatal supplements, the unfortunate reality is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate this category. There are more than 250 prenatal supplements in the market with tremendous variation in quality and quantity of nutrients. At NHF, we’ve analyzed all of them and we found that they range from anywhere between 10% and 90% of our recommendations, but none fully meets our science-based recommendations. Few supplements contain a full range of all of the 30 plus essential vitamins and minerals, but often they don’t have enough of them. Many prenatal companies restrict themselves to just one capsule, which greatly limits the amount of vitamins and minerals that you can put into it to get all the nutrients that a woman needs. For example, when it comes to Calcium, to get the amount a pregnant woman needs daily you would need one capsule just for that.
In order to be part of the solution to this challenge, we have partnered with Shazi Visram, the mom founder of healthynest, to develop the first comprehensive prenatal in the market adapted to the unique needs of each trimester.
To design what I believe is the golden standard in prenatal supplementation, we reviewed over 350 scientific research papers, to help us determine what is the optimal level of each vitamin and each mineral, and how those needs change during each trimester.
A great example is iron: roughly 15% of women start their pregnancy with low iron. When they become pregnant, iron requirements go up so much that up to 40% of women develop low iron during pregnancy. Most prenatals contain some iron, but they don’t contain enough, and they are not adapted to how iron needs increase in each trimester.
This matters because iron plays a crucial role in your baby’s brain development, as it helps bring oxygen to your baby’s brain. Having low iron has been shown to increase the risk of autism, and this is only one of the reasons why getting enough iron throughout your entire pregnancy is so important.
We’ve been investigating vitamin and mineral supplements for over 20 years. We have now used that research to look at the nutritional status of women, trying to better understand how to develop a prenatal supplement that contains the optimal level of every vitamin and mineral in each trimester, and we have put all of it into practice in the design of the healthynest prenatal.
In addition to the right nutrient quantities, we have put a deep emphasis on their quality and purity. Each and every vitamin and mineral has been carefully selected by our team of physicians and scientists taking into account the bioavailability of the form of vitamin, such as Folate in the form of MTHF, B12, choline and inositol to create an optimal supplement for mom and baby.
There is one catch, though, but I believe it’s a minor one. The daily dose of the healthynest. prenatal is seven capsules, for a very simple reason: because we don’t want to compromise. While this means taking a handful of vitamins, we have condensed down the almost 30 separate items that were previously not found in one formulation. We include all of the essential vitamins, all of the essential minerals and the Omega-3 fatty acids that women need in order to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, and that does require taking a few more pills than your standard prenatal. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but we know it’s worth it…
This ad is brought to you by healthynest
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data (NHANES). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Clinical Guidance Committee Opinion, Prepregnancy Counseling. Developed jointly by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Gynecologic Practice and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in collaboration with committee member Daniel M. Breitkopf, MD and ASRM member Micah Hill, DO. Volume 133, Number 762 – January 2019
- Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96.1 (2012): 80-89. Schmidt, Rebecca J., et al.
- Association between maternal use of folic acid supplements and risk of autism spectrum disorders in children. JAMA 309.6 (2013): 570-577. Surén, Pål, et al.
- Abnormal transmethylation / transsulfuration metabolism and DNA hypomethylation among parents of children with autism. James SJ, Melnyk S, Jernigan S, Hubanks A, Rose S, Gaylor DW. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008 Nov; 38 (10):1966-75.
- Daily oral iron supplementation during pregnancy. A meta-analysis of 44 trials, involving 43,274 women compared the effects of daily oral supplements containing iron versus no iron or placebo. The Cochrane Library – Peña-Rosas JP, De-Regil LM, Garcia-Casal MN, Dowswell T. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jul 22
- National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Neural tube defects and maternal intake of micronutrients related to one-carbon metabolism or antioxidant activity. Chandler AL, Hobbs CA, Mosley BS, Berry RJ, Canfield MA, Qi YP, Siega-Riz AM, Shaw GM; Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2012 Nov;94(11):864-74. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23068. Epub 2012 Aug 29.
- Iron supplementation during pregnancy, anemia, and birth weight: a randomized controlled trial. Cogswell, Mary E., et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78.4 (2003): 773-781.
- Anaemia during pregnancy as a risk factor for iron-deficiency anaemia in infancy: a case-control study. Kilbride, Julia, et al. International Journal of Epidemiology 28.3 (1999): 461-468.
- Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk of autism spectrum disorder. Schmidt RJ, Tancredi DJ, Krakowiak P, Hansen RL, Ozonoff S. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Nov 1; 180(9):890-900.
- Prevention of the First Occurrence of Neural-Tube Defects by Periconceptional Vitamin Supplementation. Czeizel, Andrew E., and Istvan Dudas. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey 48.6 (1993): 395-397.
- Prevention of neural-tube defects with folic acid in China. Berry, Robert J., et al. New England Journal of Medicine 341.20 (1999): 1485-1490.
- Pre-conception folic acid and multivitamin supplementation for the primary and secondary prevention of neural tube defects and other folic acid-sensitive congenital anomalies. J Obstet Gynaecol Can 37.6 (2015): 534-549.
Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96.1 (2012): 80-89. Schmidt, Rebecca J., et al.
Association between maternal use of folic acid supplements and risk of autism spectrum disorders in children. JAMA 309.6 (2013): 570-577. Surén, Pål, et al.