Posts Tagged ‘NTDs’

FDA approves folic acid fortification of corn masa — a great day for babies!

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Hispanic mom and babyToday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will allow corn masa flour to be fortified with folic acid. This announcement is a victory for America’s mothers and babies, and caps more than 20 years of work by the March of Dimes to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs).

Scientists have long recognized that folic acid can prevent NTDs.  After wheat flour and related products were required to be fortified with folic acid in 1996, the incidence of neural tube defects dropped by about one-third.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates folic acid fortification in the U.S. has saved about 1,300 babies each year from these fatal or devastating birth defects – a total of 26,000 babies born healthy since folic acid fortification began in 1998.

But corn masa flour wasn’t part of that rule, and that may be part of the reason that neural tube defect rates have remained higher among Hispanic babies. Foods like tortillas, tamales, pupusas, chips and taco shells can now be fortified. Adding folic acid to corn masa will help to prevent neural tube defects.

The March of Dimes looks forward to the prevention of even more NTDs in the U.S. — giving more babies a chance for a full, happy life, and giving their families the joy of a healthy child.

Please join us in thanking the FDA by tweeting to @US_FDA or posting on their Facebook wall with messages like these:

Join our Advocacy Action Center for updates about how you can make a difference for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

Folic acid fortification saves millions of dollars and reduces neural tube defects

Friday, January 15th, 2016

grainSince the U.S. started requiring that folic acid be added to certain foods (known as fortification), there has been a 28% reduction in cases of babies born with neural tube defects (NTDs). In addition, a recent study has found that fortification also saves hundreds of millions of dollars each year in medical and associated costs.

In 1998, to help women of child-bearing age get more folic acid, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated that grains, such as bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal be fortified with folic acid. Getting the right amount of folic acid before pregnancy helps to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, called neural tube defects (NTDs). Neural tube defects include anencephaly and spina bifida.

A study published this week, estimates how much money has been saved by fortifying grain products with folic acid. The study suggests that each year, folic acid fortification saves about $603 million dollars more than the cost of fortification. The estimated lifetime cost for medical care, special education, and caregiver time for a child born with spina bifida is approximately $791,900. Since fortification prevents about 767 cases of spina bifida each year, the annual cost savings are substantial. The authors of the study conclude that “Fortification with folic acid is effective in preventing NTDs and saves hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”

The March of Dimes supports fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid. By targeting food made with corn masa for folic acid fortification, it would be possible to lower the rate of NTDs among the Hispanic population as well.

Keep in mind that even if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods, fruits and vegetables, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid. So make sure you take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Folic acid is in many cereals

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Bowl of cerealGetting enough folic acid before pregnancy doesn’t have to be a chore. Taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid is an easy way to get the amount you need. In addition, many breakfast cereals contain folic acid because it has been added to them – this is called fortification. You can check to see if your favorite cereal is fortified by reading the nutritional label on the box.

Here is information from the CDC along with a list of cereals fortified with folic acid.  Be sure to read the label to see the amount of folic acid in a single serving.

But remember…

Although cereal fortification is a good thing, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid every day. This is why taking a multi-vitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended. But, be sure to check with your health care provider to see if you may need higher amounts of folic acid.

Once you’re pregnant, your folic acid needs will increase to at least 600 micrograms per day. Some women, like those who’ve had a pregnancy affected by NTDs (neural tube defects) or women with sickle cell disease, may need more.

Bottom line

Read labels, take your multivitamin with folic acid, and talk to your provider to make sure you are getting the right amount of folic acid every day, before you become pregnant, as well as during pregnancy.

Folic acid can help reduce the risk of spina bifida

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Holding a multivitamin 2If a woman of childbearing age takes 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy, it can help reduce her baby’s risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect, affecting 1,500 to 2000 babies a year.

A baby’s neural tube normally develops into the brain and spinal cord. It starts out as a tiny, flat ribbon that turns into a tube by the end of the first month of pregnancy. NTDs happen if the tube doesn’t close completely.

Since birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, they often occur before a woman knows she’s pregnant. This is why it is important for a woman of childbearing age to take folic acid every day, even if she isn’t planning a pregnancy any time soon. By the time a woman realizes she’s pregnant, it might be too late to prevent these birth defects.

Types of spina bifida

There are four types of spina bifida, ranging from mild to severe. The mildest form (occulta), usually doesn’t cause health problems. However, other forms such as closed neural tube, meningocele and myelomeningocele (also known as open spina bifida) may cause symptoms such as bladder problems, infections and paralysis.

Spina bifida can also cause a number of medical conditions. If your child has spina bifida, he will need a team of medical professionals to monitor his health:

  • Pediatrician – a doctor who takes care of babies and children
  • Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician – a pediatrician with additional training in developmental disorders
  • Neurologist – a doctor who treats problems of the nervous system, brain and spinal cord
  • Psychologist – a professional trained to treat social and mental health problems
  • Psychiatrist – a doctor who specializes in treating mental health disorders
  • Urologist – a doctor who treats problems of the urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra)
  • Orthopedist – a doctor trained to treat disorders of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, tendons and overall physical movement problems
  • Occupational Therapist – a professional trained to help with activities of daily living and fine motor problems
  • Physical Therapist – a professional trained to treat movement, balance, strength and physical problems

Learn more about the causes, types and treatments of spina bifida, on our website.

Bottom line

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, BEFORE and early in pregnancy, to help prevent certain birth defects.

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