January 5-11 is Folic Acid Awareness week
In honor of National Birth Defects Awareness Month (January) and Folic Acid Awareness Week (January 5-11, 2020), the Spina Bifida Resource Network of New Jersey is encouraging everyone, and especially women of childbearing age, to be aware of the benefits of folic acid.
Learn more about folic acid and share this information with friends and family:
- Research has shown that folic acid, taken before and during pregnancy, can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine such as spina bifida by up to 70%. Spina bifida occurs in the first few weeks after conception, before a woman knows she is pregnant, therefore it is important to be getting enough folic acid BEFORE becoming pregnant.
- Folate is a B vitamin (B9) found naturally in many foods, which is essential for healthy cell growth and development. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in vitamins and enriched cereals, pastas and breads.
- Folic acid is important when your body is building lots of new cells, like during the early stages of pregnancy. Folic acid is used by the body to manufacture DNA. DNA is required for rapid cell division and organ/tissue formation in the developing baby.
- Folic acid helps create healthy new cells, so parts of our bodies with fast growing cells, such as skin, hair and nails all need folic acid to stay healthy and beautiful.
- There are other reasons for everyone to get enough folic acid every day. Folic acid might also improve heart health and help prevent some cancers. It may also help with mild depression.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated adding folic acid to all enriched cereal grain products in 1998. Subsequently, the prevalence rate of spina bifida declined 31% from pre-fortification rates. Foods fortified with folic acid include: breakfast cereals; enriched bread, rice, pasta and other grain products.
- Foods high in naturally occurring folate include broccoli, avocado, leafy green vegetables, oranges, and legumes such as beans, lentils and nuts.
- It is sometimes difficult to get the recommended daily amount of 400 mcg through food alone. Therefore, it’s best to also take a multivitamin with folic acid or a folic acid vitamin on a daily basis.
- Personal or family history of spina bifida increases your chances of having a pregnancy affected by spina bifida. A doctor may prescribe a higher daily dose of folic acid (4mg) for people at greater risk.
- Not all birth defects can be prevented and even with the best prenatal care, spina bifida and other birth defects can still occur. But you can increase your chances of having a healthy baby by doing what you can to be your healthiest self both before and during pregnancy.
The Spina Bifida Resource Network (SBRN) works to educate the public and health care providers about the benefits and uses of folic acid. SBRN distributes information about folic acid throughout the state at colleges, conferences, health fairs, sporting events and smaller groups. The SBRN recommends taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid and eating fortified foods, along with a healthy diet that includes folate rich foods. According to SBRN’s Executive Director, Roberta Kestenbaum, “Preventing birth defects is a critical part of our mission and taking folic acid and eating folate rich foods is an easy and healthy way to do it! We provide informational materials, in English and Spanish, including recipes using high folate foods, for anyone seeking to learn more about the role of folic acid in reducing birth defects. We will also do presentations for small or large groups.”