Folic acid is vital for women of childbearing age


Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 12:57 a.m.
The new "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" addresses the need for adequate folic acid, a B vitamin, for women of childbearing age. The Florida Folic Acid Coalition, based at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, joins the National Council on Folic Acid in launching National Folic Acid Awareness Week, Jan. 24-30.
The campaign "Folic Acid: You Don"t Know what You're Missing!" was created to educate people about the importance of getting enough folic acid and the lifelong benefits it provides.
All women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to reduce their risk of having a baby affected by a neural tube defect - a defect of the brain and spine. Getting enough folic acid is easily achieved by taking a multivitamin daily as part of a healthy diet that includes folic-acid-fortified cereals or other grains and folate-rich foods such as orange juice, legumes, strawberries and dark-green leafy vegetables.
Taken before and during pregnancy, folic acid helps prevent up to 70 percent of neural tube defects. In the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and an NTD can happen early during pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Therefore, it is especially important that all women of childbearing age take folic acid daily, even before they are thinking of becoming pregnant.
Emerging research indicates that folic acid might also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and possibly Alzheimer's disease. With the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, people are likely eating fewer fortified foods now, reducing their intake of folic acid. This makes a daily multivitamin that much more important for women of childbearing age.
We encourage everyone to educate themselves and visit www. folicacidinfo.org or www. folicacidnow.net for more information.
Ron Lutz, coordinator, Florida Folic Acid Coalition, University of Florida

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