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January 4-10 is Folic Acid Awareness Week

Why does your baby need folic acid?

Folic acid is a naturally occurring B vitamin that helps a baby’s neural tube, which is the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord, develop properly.

It must be taken before and during pregnancy when the neural tube is developing.

The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it and eat a healthy diet. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure.

You can also get folic acid in your diet, but it’s hard to get enough every day through food alone.

All women of childbearing age are recommended to take a multivitamin containing folic acid every day as part of a healthy diet.

Folic acid only works if taken before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the neural tube is developing into the brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube does not close properly, a baby is born with a very serious birth defect called a neural tube defect. About 3,000 children are born each year in the U.S. with a neural tube defect.

If all women took adequate folic acid before conception and during pregnancy, the number of babies born with a neural tube defect could drop by as much as 70 percent.

Folic acid is found in the following foods:

• Fortified breakfast cereals

• Lentils

• Asparagus

• Spinach

• Black beans

• Peanuts

• Orange juice (from concentrate is best)

• Enriched breads and pasta

• Romaine lettuce

• Broccoli

A single serving of many breakfast cereals has the amount of folic acid that a woman needs each day. Look at the nutrition label on the side of the cereal box for the serving size and percent of daily value.

Folic acid is good for Mom and Dad too

In recent years, doctors have come to realize that folic acid is very important for everyone maintaining health.

It has long been known that folic acid plays an important role in the production of normal red blood cells. More recent studies suggest that folic acid may help prevent heart disease, stroke and certain cancers, especially colon cancer and pancreatic cancer.

It can also reduce the risk of breast cancer. The benefit is greater when women get extra vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 in their diet in addition to folic acid.

Folic acid can help depression, when used with conventional antidepressant medicines.

Limited research suggests that folic acid alone won’t help with depression.

Some research shows that taking folic acid with other vitamins including vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 might help prevent getting the eye disease called age-related macular degeneration.

For more information, visit the Health Department at www.clarkhealthdept.org or on Facebook, follow on Twitter @CCHealthDept or call 859-744-4482.