March Of Dimes Praises Folic Acid Fortification

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B Vitamin Folic Acid

Daily consumption of the B vitamin folic acid is a safe and effective means of preventing serious birth defects.

The March of Dimes Foundation urged women not to be scared off it by a recent news story suggesting otherwise.

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In an Associated Press report today, it was suggested that food fortification with folic acid should be reconsidered.

"The Food & Drug Administration's decision to add folic acid to our nation's fortified grain foods was a victory for mothers and babies," responded Michael Katz, M.D., senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes. "It is so rare that we get an opportunity to prevent thousands of babies from being born with a disabling or fatal birth defect with such an easy means. There is no real basis to the suggestion made by some commentators today that folic acid fortification should be rolled back."

There is no evidence that folic acid consumed through fortified foods causes any adverse effects, Dr. Katz noted. In fact, folic acid fortification of grain foods has produced a one-third decline in the serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs), between 1995 and 2002, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An estimated 2,500 babies are born each year with an NTD, and additional affected pregnancies result in miscarriage or stillbirth. The most common NTD is spina bifida, a leading cause of childhood paralysis. Another NTD is anencephaly, a fatal condition in which a baby is born with a severely underdeveloped brain.

Maternal and child health experts agree that all women capable of becoming pregnant should take a multivitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day beginning before pregnancy, as part of a healthful diet containing foods fortified with folic acid and foods that naturally contain folic acid, such as leafy green vegetables. Studies show that if all women consumed the recommended amount of folic acid before and during the early months of pregnancy up to 70 percent of all NTDs could be prevented.

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