Folic Acid Important to Reduce Birth Defects

~ December 1997 No.29 ~

Folic acid was often included in the list of B-vitamins that was learned by generation after generation of nutritionists and dieticians. Check most vitamin supplement bottles and you find it listed with thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. Until very recently it was considered as an essential nutrient, but not one that most people often worried about. This in spite of the fact that folic acid is a central component in many very important metabolic pathways in the body including nucleic acid synthesis, amino acid metabolism and one-carbon transfer mechanisms.

In a recent press release, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned about the effects in women not consuming adequate amounts of folic acid before and during early pregnancy. Recent research findings have linked inadequate folic acid intakes to spina bifida and anencephaly, two very serious neural tube defects. The CDC estimated that up to 3,000 babies a year are born with neural tube defects. The CDC believes that 50-70% of these particular birth defects could be prevented by adequate folic acid nutriture. In 1992, the United States Public Health Service recommended that all women of child bearing age consume 0.4 mg of folic acid per day as a way of preventing spina bifida and anencephaly.

Worrying about folic acid intake after pregnancy is confirming it too late. It appears that the events that link folic acid to neural tube defects occurs in the first days of pregnancy. For this reason the CDC has recommended that all women of child bearing age take special care to ensure that they are getting at least 0.4 mg of folic acid per day in their diet. However, intakes of excessive amounts of folic acid can complicate the diagnosis of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Therefore, increasing daily folic acid intakes beyond recommended amounts may be detrimental to health.

Folic acid facts
Good sources of folic acid:liver (beef, lamb, pork, chicken), spinach, asparagus, wheat, bran, dry beans
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency:neural tube defects, anemia (various forms), diarrhea, sprue
Therapeutic use:antagonists of folic acid are used in some cancer treatments

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Last modified

July 20 2015