Little girl looking at plate of folate-rich vegetables with disgust.

The great thing about living in an informational age is that we have the ability to look up anything at any given moment (as long as there is an internet connection). However, the interesting thing is that with so much available information, it can be challenging to sort through what comes from credible sources and what info is no longer relevant.

Suppose you wanted to find out more about the possible relationship or connection between folic acid and autism. In that case, you are likely going to find many reliable articles and studies that contradict one another, especially when it comes to articles related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but why? Well, as you know, we are constantly learning new things about autism, so as our knowledge and understanding continue to expand, so does the available information on the internet.

So today, we will discuss the most up-to-date information surrounding the connection or relationship that folic acid and folinic acid have on individuals with ASD.

What is Folic Acid?

Let’s talk a little about what folic acid is and its role in our bodies. You may see folate and folic acid mentioned together or even interchangeably, but there are many critical differences between the two. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 that the body needs to maintain hematogenesis (red and white blood cells), metabolism, and DNA & RNA. It is naturally occurring in many foods such as:

  • Dark green & leafy vegetables
  • Asparagus
  • Okra
  • Beans & legumes
  • Animal kidney
  • Animal liver
  • Tomato juice
  • Orange juice

Folic acid is the form of vitamin B9 found in many vitamin supplements (it is not naturally occurring). It is also added to processed food items such as cereals, flour, pasta, cookies, crackers, and bread per federal guidelines that were introduced in 1998. But most people who want to increase their folic acid intake will do so with supplements. For example, it is often taken during pregnancy to prevent deficiencies that may cause congenital disabilities (birth defects). It is also taken for other conditions such as depression, memory loss, etc.

Folate, Folic Acid and Autism

Folic acid supplementation is recommended for pregnant women because it helps form the neural tube. But did you know that in the United States, it is actually recommended for all women who are of reproductive age? According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women of reproductive age should consume 400 mcg of folic acid every day to get enough folic acid to help prevent some birth defects in case of unplanned pregnancy. Major brain birth defects typically occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant.

In recent years, researchers have studied the effects of folic acid and its relation to autism. Some studies have suggested that the B vitamin (folic acid) may actually lower the risk of autism if taken early in pregnancy, especially for women exposed to air pollution or other environmental factors.

In a different study, researchers found that individuals with ASD and their immediate family members are more likely to carry autoantibodies that could block folate transport from the mother to the fetus and to the brain in infants.

These studies illustrate how folic acid can lower the risk of autism when taken during pregnancy. Still, additional studies discuss how folic acid may help ease symptoms of ASD in young children.

Folinic Acid and Autism

Another form of vitamin B9 is folinic acid (5-formyl tetrahdrofolate), and it is an active form in the group of vitamins known as folates. Despite their similar names, folic acid and folinic acid are pharmaceutically different from one another. However, they both work in fairly similar ways to one another. A key difference between the two is that folinic acid is a more metabolically active form of folate than folic acid.

In recent years, more studies have emerged studying the connection between folinic acid and autism.

A study from 2018 reported that folinic acid (a form of folic acid) treatment in children with ASD resulted in improved verbal communication when compared to the placebo group. However, the improvements were more evident among a subgroup of the children who tested positive for the folate-blocking antibody.

The researchers believe that folinic acid (taken in high doses), may be linked to improved brain function by helping to overcome the blockade of the autoantibodies, and restore folate levels.


Although the studies mentioned above are small in number, they have opened the door to additional research that will continue to study the effects and relationship between folic acid and autism. Vitamin and dietary supplementation should always be discussed with your physician, especially if you are pregnant or administering to a child with ASD.

At Simple Spectrum, we know that addressing nutritional deficiencies in children can lead to improved ASD symptoms, and that is why we made sure to include folate and folinic acid (a form of folic acid) while formulating our Nutritional Support Supplement. Hundreds of parents have reported improved symptoms in their children with the help of our supplements. If you have any questions about our supplements, please do not hesitate to contact us!