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Health Watch

Folic Acid - 2/18/2008

Folic Acid

Folic Acid or folate (the anion form of folic acid) is part of Vitamin B family. It works along with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C to maintain and produce new healthy red blood cells. It is also a vital element in the production of our DNA, the building block of the human body.

There are studies which suggest that taking folic acid is essential to women before and during pregnancy. Folic acid facilitates the production of new healthy cells, especially necessary during the first few months of fetus development. It prevents major defects in the baby’s brain, spine, skin and organ formation. In a more recent study, it was even suggested that folic acid helps decrease the risk of premature deliveries and women who has been taking folic acid for at least a year before conception shows reduced cases of spontaneous preterm births.

Lack of folic acid however, increases the risk for babies in having some sort of deformity like, a cleft lip, cleft palate and one of the most common birth defects, the neural tube defect. Neural Tube Defect (NTD) is an abnormality that occurs during the formation of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. It takes place during the early stages of pregnancy. Initially, the human embryo is flat and will eventually develop into a tube like shape also known as neural tube. When the neural tube fails to close completely, NTD develops.

NTD during pregnancy can be detected through a blood test. This screening process is called the Maternal Serum Alpha Fetoprotein (MSAFP) that can be performed from16th to the 18th week of pregnancy. An ultrasound examination on the 18th week may also detect NTD visually. Another option is to test the amniotic fluid (fluid surrounding the baby) on the 15th week. Be reminded though, to consult your doctor before performing any of these procedures. There may be risks involved that may harm you or your baby.

Normal Adults and children need folic acid as well. Some studies also suggest that folic acid appears to decrease the risk of anemia, stroke and cancer due to its ability to maintain, repair and produce healthy cells.

Leafy vegetables, beans, meat, citrus fruits, wheat germ are namely some of the natural foods that are enriched with folic acid. Daily supplements can also be taken, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Men and Women ages 19 and up is about 400ug. Intake for pregnant and breast feeding women may vary, consult your doctor.

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