Posts Tagged ‘folate’

“I just found out I’m pregnant and I haven’t been taking folic acid. What should I do?”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Pregnant couple with providerThis is a question we often receive through AskUs@marchofdimes.org. The good news is that no matter when you find out you are pregnant, you will still benefit from taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.

Folic acid is B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

Before pregnancy, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, or neural tube defects. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid. Your health care provider can prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, or you can get them over the counter without a prescription – just be sure to check the label.

Folic acid is important before and during early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in your baby. However, a pregnant woman needs extra folic acid throughout her pregnancy to help her produce the additional blood cells her body needs. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and your baby, and is needed to produce new DNA (genetic material) as cells multiply.

If you have not been taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid up until now, perhaps you have been getting folic acid from food sources. Fortunately, in the United States, most grain products are fortified with folic acid (such as cereals, breads, pasta, etc.), so you are likely getting a certain amount of folic acid from your diet. Products that say “enriched” or “fortified” usually contain folic acid, but check product labels to be sure.

You also can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables. When folic acid is naturally found in a food, it’s called folate. Foods that are good sources of folate are:

    • Beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans
    • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • Peanuts (But don’t eat them if you have a peanut allergy)
    • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit
    • Orange juice (From concentrate is best)

Folic acid is very important throughout your pregnancy, so even if you have been eating the foods listed, you should still take a prenatal vitamin with the recommended amount of folic acid.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? We’ve got 9 for you.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the March of Dimes medical advisor and co-author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as possible.

Here are Dr. Dolan’s 9 New Year’s Resolutions for moms-to-be:

  1. Take a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to become pregnant. Getting enoughmultivitamin folate or folic acid before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta, and certain corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos. Be sure to check package labels.
  2. Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy.
  3. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
  4. Handle food safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
  5. Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
  6. Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
  7. Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. Find out more at ZAPzika.org.
  8. Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
  9. Let someone else clean the cat litter box!

Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take the above steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month – the perfect time to learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. We’ll have posts every week on different birth defects topics. So, be sure to be on the look-out for more info!

Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Folic acid – why is it important?

Monday, January 4th, 2016

folic acid vitaminFolic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth and helps prevent certain birth defects. It is Folic Acid Awareness Week – a great time to become familiar with how this vitamin can help you and your baby.

Your body needs to make new cells every day for blood, skin, hair and nails. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

How can folic acid help your baby?

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy.  So it is helpful to get in the habit of taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, before you become pregnant.

Even if you are not planning to become pregnant, your body needs folic acid for normal growth and development.

What if you’re already pregnant?

Most pregnant women need to take a multi-vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid. Talk with your prenatal provider to see if this is the right dosage for you. A pregnant women needs extra folic acid throughout pregnancy to help produce the additional blood cells your body needs during pregnancy. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus.

Can you get folic acid anywhere else?

Yes. Many foods have folic acid added to them. On packages of flour, breads, cereals and pastas, look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” – it means the product has folic acid added to it.

You can also get folic acid in its natural form – folate – in some fruits and vegetables. Folate can be found in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. Learn about the difference between folic acid and folate here.

Bottom line:

Even if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods, fruits and veggies, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid every day.  By taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, you will be sure to get the amount you need.

 

Your daily folic acid dose

Monday, January 5th, 2015

folic acid vitaminIf you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, folic acid is important to help prevent certain birth defects. But did you know that even if you are not trying to get pregnant, folic acid is still good for your body?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth. Your skin, hair and nails make new cells every day. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. Some studies even show that folic acid may help protect you from heart disease.

Folic acid can be found in its natural form (called folate) in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. But it is really hard to get the amount you need from food.

The manufactured or synthetic form of folate is called folic acid. There are many synthetic forms of folic acid: fortified grains, pastas and breakfast cereals. “Fortified” means that folic acid has been added to the food. However, the easiest way to get your recommended folic acid dose, is to take a multivitamin containing at least 400 mcg of folic acid per serving (or 600 mcg if you are pregnant) every day.

As this week is National Folic Acid Awareness Week, it is a good time to check your diet and vitamin pills to be sure that you are getting the recommended amount of folic acid.

If you are like me, and don’t like swallowing pills, you can find a variety of chewable and gummy multivitamins at your local grocery, pharmacy or discount store to suit your tastes and needs. Just be sure to read the labels – some serving sizes, particularly the gummy vitamins, require you to take two tablets to meet your daily recommended dose.

So even if you are not planning on becoming pregnant anytime soon, with so many benefits, you have all the reason you need to start getting your daily recommended folic acid fix.

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Anifa is an 18-month-old girl who was born with spina bifida, a serious birth defect of the spine. Like many children with spina bifida, Anifa is paralyzed and has no bowel or bladder control. She lives with her family in a village in Nigeria where there is no primary health center to help her. As a result, Anifa could not have surgery to close the opening in her spine until she was nine months old. During this time, her spinal cord was exposed and without protection. In the U.S., the first surgery for a baby born with spina bifida usually takes place within the first 24 hours of life to avoid complications or death. But Anifa had no choice but to wait.

In the United States, children born with spina bifida often live long and productive lives, even though they face many challenges. In many other countries, however, the outlook for children like Anifa is not as positive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first began researching folic acid’s role in preventing birth defects in the early 1980s. Early studies found the risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD), such as spina bifida, was reduced if the mother had taken folic acid before and during early pregnancy. As a result, U.S. Public Health Service released the 1992 recommendation that all women who could become pregnant should get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Women can get folic acid in three ways: diet, vitamin supplements, and flour fortification. Experts agreed that getting 400 mcg of folic acid from naturally-occurring food sources alone was impractical—women would have to eat a lot of folate-rich foods which are expensive and not readily available in many communities.

In January 1998, in response to requests from the CDC and its collaborators, including the March of Dimes, the FDA mandated fortification of cereal grain products labeled as enriched in the United States. “At that point, we had what we thought was the best possible coverage of women of child-bearing age to get folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects,” says former CDC scientist Joe Mulinare. With a 36 percent reduction in the rates of neural tube defects by the end of 2006, folic acid fortification was recently named one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the United States.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 6-12th, 2013. We are honored to have this guest post from the CDC. Author: Christina Kilgo, MA, Health Communication Specialist and SciMetrika contractor for CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Peanut allergies

Friday, July 6th, 2012

peanutsAbout 1 percent of children and adults in the United States are allergic to peanuts and peanut products, including peanut butter and any food containing peanuts. For reasons that are not well understood, peanut allergy has doubled in the past decade. Individuals with a peanut allergy can have a serious (such as difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness) or even fatal reaction if they eat peanuts. This reaction occurs because that person’s immune system reacts abnormally to usually harmless proteins in peanuts. Children and adults who are allergic to peanuts should not eat them at any time. Unfortunately, there is no proven way to prevent peanut allergy in a child.

Should a pregnant woman eat peanuts or peanut products? Women who are allergic to peanuts should not eat peanuts or peanut products during pregnancy or at any other time. Studies suggest, however, that women who are not allergic to peanuts can safely eat peanuts during pregnancy.

Because peanut allergy tends to run in families, health care providers have been seeking ways to help prevent this allergy in babies from affected families. Until recently, experts recommended that women who aren’t allergic to peanuts but who have a family history of peanut allergy avoid peanuts during pregnancy. However, recent studies have found no evidence that avoiding peanuts in pregnancy helps prevent peanut allergies in the child.

Peanuts can be healthy food choices for pregnant women. Peanuts are a good source of protein and folate. Folate is the form of folic acid that is found naturally in foods. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy helps prevent certain serious birth defects of the brain and spine. The March of Dimes recommends that all women who could become pregnant take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, and make healthy food choices that include foods rich in folic acid.

If a woman is not allergic to peanuts, she can eat peanuts and peanut products while breastfeeding. There is no evidence that avoiding peanuts during breastfeeding helps prevent peanut allergies in the child.

Infants and young children who have been diagnosed with a peanut allergy should never eat peanuts or peanut products. Until recently, experts recommended delaying introduction of peanuts and peanut products to children with a family history of peanut allergy until age 3. But recent studies suggest that this delay does not help prevent peanut allergy.

In fact, a 2008 study found a 10-fold greater risk of peanut allergy in children who did not eat peanuts in infancy and early childhood compared to those who ate high quantities of peanuts. Additional studies are needed to determine whether eating peanuts in early childhood can help prevent peanut allergy in high-risk children.

To learn more about peanut allergies, the signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, read our article.

Folic acid vs. folate

Monday, November 21st, 2011

broccoliYou’ve heard a lot about the importance of folic acid. Recently, a pregnant woman wrote to us and asked exactly what she would need to eat in order to get all her folic acid needs from food instead of a vitamin. Good question…complicated answer.

The first thing you need to know is that the natural form of folic acid is called folate. Folate is found in lentils, spinach, black beans, peanuts, oranges and orange juice, legumes, romaine lettuce, leafy green veggies and broccoli. But, you have to eat a lot of these foods to get the right amount of folic acid (400 mcg per day). Cooking and storage can destroy folate, so even if you have the best intentions, your plans may be foiled. To make matters worse, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), your body only absorbs about 50 % of folate from food. Not much!

Fortunately, there is a way around having to eat tons of lentils and broccoli every day. The manufactured or synthetic form of folate is called folic acid. Many grain products in the United States are fortified with folic acid (meaning folic acid is added to them). The best part of this is that your body actually absorbs folic acid better than it absorbs folate. In fact, your body absorbs approximately 85% percent of the folic acid in fortified foods and 100% of the folic acid in a vitamin supplement. (I like these numbers a lot more!) That is a whole lot more than only 50% your body absorbs from foods with folate.

So where can you find these fortified foods? Enriched is the magic word. Enriched flour, rice, pasta, bread and cereals are examples of fortified grain products. You can check the label to see if a product is enriched and to see how much folic acid each serving contains.

Here’s even better news…Many studies have shown that the synthetic form of folic acid helps prevent NTDs (neural tube defects) – a kind of birth defect. This is why the IOM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the March of Dimes recommend that all women of childbearing age consume at least 400 micrograms a day of the synthetic form of folic acid.

A simple solution…

You can eat a serving of fortified cereal that contains 100% of the daily value of folic acid every day. Or…(drumroll please…) you can pop a vitamin. Of course, a healthy diet is very important, but taking a daily multivitamin that contains at least 400 mcg of folic acid (or at least 600 mcg if you are pregnant) is key in ensuring that you are getting and absorbing the folic acid that your body needs – whether you are planning on getting pregnant or not. It really couldn’t be easier.

Updated January 2016

Vitamins – good or bad?

Friday, October 14th, 2011

pillsYou may have read or heard on the news lately that a couple of recent studies are showing concerns about the health benefits of taking vitamins and supplements. While some vitamins may be questionable, folic acid is very important for all women of childbearing age. It helps to protect developing babies from certain birth defects. So keep taking it.

According to a couple of these new studies, vitamins may not be as beneficial as previously thought. The research suggests that in some instances some vitamins may be harmful as we get older. One study of older women suggests that taking vitamin supplements, including folic acid, may slightly increase a woman’s risk of death after the age of 62. Another study of men states that taking vitamin E supplements may significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer.    HOWEVER, these are single studies and much more research needs to be done before we know how accurate these results may be.

Here is what we do know now. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that all women of childbearing age should take 400 micrograms of folic acid before getting pregnant to help prevent neural tube defects (serious birth defects of the brain and spine). This is especially important since about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. During pregnancy, women should get at least 600 micrograms of folic acid.

If you have any questions about taking vitamins, talk with your health care provider.

Folic acid in fortified grains

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

grainsOf the four million women who give birth in the US each year, some 3,000 babies are born with neural tube defects, which include certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is a critical element needed for proper spinal cord development during the first three weeks of pregnancy. Because this is often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant, it’s important for women of child-bearing age to follow a healthy lifestyle and to include folic acid as part of their diet.

The Grain Foods Foundation has joined with the March of Dimes to remind all women of child-bearing age of the important role folic acid plays in preventing birth defects. Enriched breads – and many other grains such as rice, tortillas, pasta and cereal – are important sources of folic acid. 

• White flour is enriched with three major B vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin), as well as iron, and is fortified with the B vitamin folic acid.
• Enriched flour contains two times as much folic acid as its whole grain counterpart – making enriched grains the largest source of folic acid in the diets of most Americans. Whole grain products, with the exception of some breakfast cereals, are not fortified with folic acid.
• Since the FDA required fortification of enriched grains, the number of babies born in the U.S. with neural-tube birth defects has declined by 34 percent in non-Hispanic whites, and by 36 percent among Hispanics.

Grain foods are a delicious and nutrient-dense component of a healthy diet and have been shown to help with weight maintenance. In fact, people who consume a medium-to-high percentage of carbohydrates in their diet have a reduced risk for obesity. This is important for women of childbearing age as obese women who are pregnant have a significantly higher risk of needing a Cesarean section delivery, delivering too early, developing pre-eclampsia, and having an exceptionally large baby. They also face double the risk of stillbirth and neonatal death.

For a balanced diet, the USDA recommends at least six one-ounce servings of grains daily. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal and even tortillas and pretzels are examples of grain foods.

Folate carolers flash mob

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

This is so great!  What a delicious surprise!