Fantastic folic acid!
New research suggests that folic acid could help to prevent women from giving birth to premature babies. The research, which looked at over 34,000 women, also indicates that women need to take folic acid supplements for a year before conceiving
Folic Acid has long been recommended for women thinking of becoming pregnant. It lowers the risk of spina bifida, and other birth defects known as neural tube defects, which involve the spine or brain. However, this new trial – which was sponsored by the American government – appears to show that it has another strong benefit. The results showed that taking supplements – either by themselves or in a multivitamin – for a year before conceiving, meant a 70 percent lower risk of delivering a baby between 20 and 28 weeks, and a 50 percent lower risk of delivering between 28 and 32 weeks.
“Obviously these findings are very exciting and very promising, not the least because of the simplicity of the findings and the ease of potential implementation” said lead author, Dr Radek Bukowski, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
The findings were presented at a meeting of the Society for Maternal-Foetal Medicine in Dallas.
Folic acid – which is known as folate in its natural form – is one of the B-group of vitamins and helps the body to make healthy new red blood cells. It is found naturally in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, and beans, peas, chickpeas, nuts and brown rice. Some breakfast cereals also contain folic acid, as does some bread and fruit (including oranges and bananas).
According to the Food Standards Agency, most people should be able to get the amount of folic acid they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Adults generally need 0.2 mg a day.
However, the FSA adds that if you are pregnant or thinking of having a baby you should take a daily folic acid supplement of 0.4 mg (400 microgram) until the 12th week of pregnancy. This new research suggests starting to take that supplement a year in advance of actually becoming pregnant.