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Home News Folic Acid: More Important Than You May Think
David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
575-649-0754 Mobile

Folic Acid: More Important Than You May Think

January 13, 2016 - Public Relations - Information

Think you are getting all of the vitamins you need from your diet alone?  Truth is, most of us are not. It is hard to get enough of certain vitamins from food alone. One vitamin everyone needs is folic acid.

Folic acid is an essential B‐vitamin; we all need it to stay in good health. Folic acid helps build DNA and your body uses it to produce and maintain new cells. It also helps prevent birth defects and changes in DNA that can lead to cancer. Folic acid is found in multivitamins and fortified foods like breakfast cereal, pasta and bread.

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all adults take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Folic acid is particularly important for women of reproductive age.  For women who become pregnant, it has been shown to reduce the risk of having neural tube defects (NTDs) by up to 70 percent when taken prior to conception. Since about 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important to take folic acid every day, even if you’re not planning to get pregnant.

The most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly.  Each year in the United States, there are 3,000 pregnancies affected by spina bifida or anencephaly, which are neural tube defects (NTDs) caused by the incomplete closing of the spine and skull.  According to the CDC, Hispanic women are more likely than other women to have a child affected by these birth defects.

The CDC first began researching folic acid’s role in preventing birth defects in the early 1980s, and early studies found the risk for having a baby with birth defects was reduced if the mother had taken folic acid around the time of conception.

That research guided the US Public Health Service (PHS) to release the 1992 recommendation still used today that all women who could become pregnant should get 400 mcg of folic acid each day, and led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 to require that many grains, pastas and breakfast cereals be fortified with folic acid.  The fortification levels, alone, are not enough to help prevent birth defects, and prenatal or folic acid vitamins are still recommended prior to pregnancy.

In New Mexico 29% of women giving birth in 2013 reported that they had taken a daily multivitamin, prenatal or folic acid vitamin prior to pregnancy.  An additional 5% said they took a vitamin at least 4‐6 times a week, and 58% said they took no vitamins at all. While this is an improvement over 2012 rates, there was no significant improvement from the last five year average for daily vitamin intake (27%).

Today, NMDOH, the CDC, the March of Dimes, and many other health care providers do their part to raise awareness about the benefits – the necessity – of folic acid in our diets during National Folic Acid Awareness Week, currently underway this January 10‐16.

Remember, prenatal vitamins are a complement to a healthy diet — not a substitute for good nutrition.  Prenatal vitamins won't necessarily provide 100 percent of our vitamin and mineral needs. We still have to eat right. For more information on folic acid consult your doctor or visit the CDC’s folic acid information page at Folic Acid Information.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.

Versión en Español

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Ácido fólico: más importante de lo que usted piensa