Benefits of Folic Acid (34733)

Folic Acid or pteroylmonoglutamic acid, is a synthetic compound used in dietary pills, supplements and fortified foods.Folate foods are those foods that include compounds which have the vitamin property of folic acid. Folates are part of the Vitamin B family and are an essential part of our daily diet. Its role in helping develop healthy cells is critical during pregnancy. Doctors and midwifes routinely recommend that pregnant women should take folic acid nutritional supplements or ensure that their diet contains plenty of folic acid rich foods.

Foods Rich in Folate

The following is not a definitive list, however it should serve as a good guide to folate rich foods

  • Cereals
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Legumes
  • Fruit Juice
  • Spinach
  • Wheat Pasta

It should be noted that these foods may not be able to supplant the taking of a sublingual folic acid supplement.

The Benefits of Folic Acid in Pregnancy

Folic acid works as a non-toxic way in which to correct the anaemia of vitamin B12 deficiency. This makes folic acid essential because it helps prevent problems with the nerve system, and in particular neural tube defects. With babies this is most prevalent in brain and spinal defects.

Birth Defects that Folic Acid Helps Prevent

On the subject of neural rube defects (NTDs) the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that they are one of the most common of birth defects

"NTDs, which include anencephaly, spina bifida, and encephalocele,occur in approximately 1 of 1000 births… …An estimated 4000 pregnancies are affected with NTDs each year.More than one third of these pregnancies are spontaneously lostor electively terminated; thus, about 2500 infants per year areborn with an NTD."

Spina Bifida is a horrific defect which can cause mental and physical disability, whilst anencephaly is fatal. Since the neural tube is formed early in the pregnancy it is essential for the mother to take folic acid supplements at an early stage. It is also sound advice to take folate rich foods when planning a pregnancy.

Recommended Dosage of Folic Acid for Pregnant Women

The Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board's recommend that the dietary allowance (RDA) for folate is 600 mcg for pregnant women and 400 mcg normally.

They recommend women planning pregnancy should, daily, consume 400 mcg of folicacid daily fortified foods and/or multi vitamin tablets. Meanwhile, they should still eat folate rich foods as a matter of course.


American Academy of Pediatrics "Folic Acid for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects"

Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes: folate, other B vitamins, and choline. In: Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998:(8)32