01/06/2016 This Year Resolve to Get Enough Folic Acid

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

This Year Resolve to Get Enough Folic Acid

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network promoted Folic Acid Awareness Week, January 6-10, 2016, in an effort to raise awareness of consuming enough folic acid. For women of childbearing age, getting the recommended dosage of 400 micrograms (mcg) every day should be an easy-to-keep New Year’s resolution.

Folic acid’s role in cell growth

Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that plays a vital role in cell growth and reproduction, including using and creating proteins and forming new blood cells. Studies suggest that having enough folic acid is linked to preventing heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

Everyone, including men, needs enough folic acid to stay healthy. This is particularly true for women of childbearing age, even if they don’t plan to get pregnant, since around 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Women who take 400 mcg of folic acid daily reduce their risk of having a baby with neural tube defects (NTDs) by 70 percent. The most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly.

Why you may need to supplement with a vitamin

Folate is the naturally occurring form of the vitamin. Leafy greens, vegetables, beans, liver and some fruit all contain folate, but cooking kills 50-90 percent of the folate in food.

The synthetic form of the vitamin, folic acid, is easier for your body to absorb than folate. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began to fortify grain products with folic acid. Despite the government’s efforts, most people still do not get 400 mcg per day.

Multivitamins containing folic acid help fill in nutrition gaps and ensure that prospective mothers are getting enough in their diet.

Who is most at-risk?

Babies in their earliest development whose mothers are folic-acid-deficient are most at risk for developing NTDs. These defects occur in the first few weeks of fetal development, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. Therefore, it’s important that mothers get enough folic acid every day before and during pregnancy.

Latina women suffer higher rates of NTD-affected pregnancies because they consume less folic acid than non-Latina women. They also have the lowest awareness about the nutrient’s importance.

Ready to take action?

If you are concerned you are not getting enough folic acid daily, consider taking a multivitamin. Consult with your physician first, and ask for a multivitamin recommendation. Also, consider raising awareness of decreasing NTDs by sharing this information with women in your life who may not be getting enough folic acid.

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