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Consuming folic acid for prevention of Neural tube defects (NTDs)

Folate and Folic Acid

Folic acid is a synthetic type of compound which is commonly used in the production of fortified foods and dietary supplements. Its scientific name is pteroylmonoglutamic acid. It is a vitamin which is easily soluble in water and is not associated with any type of toxicity. When taken in larger amounts, it can be of great help when it comes to correcting anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. It still needs to be pointed out that folic acid cannot be used for prevention of various different types of neurologic consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency. According to several healthcare agencies, the upper intake limit of synthetic type of folic acid is 1000 micrograms per day. Folate is actually something different and it represents all different sorts of compounds which are characterized by the vitamin properties of folic acid. This includes the folic acid itself and also certain other compounds which occur naturally in foods. Diet of an average woman in the United States usually includes 200 micrograms of folate which is found naturally in the foods. Folic acid is much more bioavailable than naturally occurring folate. There is no scientific data which would show that additional amounts of folate would be of any help in preventing the occurrence of neural tube defects in the same way that folic acid supplements are. The amounts of folate in the blood are increased much more easily by taking folic acid in its supplementary form than by consuming folate in its naturally occurring form. Various social or economic problems may make it rather hard for a person to ingest sufficient amounts of naturally occurring folate so that is why most women who wish to get pregnant need to get hold of folic acid supplements. Most different forms of multivitamin preparations contain the recommended daily dose of folic acid. Tablets with folic acid can easily be purchased in most well equipped pharmacies everywhere across the country, but they are usually a lot less popular than the aforementioned multivitamin preparations. Higher dosage folic acid tablets can only be purchased with a prescription.


It is a widely known fact that folic acid is highly recommended to all women capable of becoming pregnant because it is very efficient in preventing various different forms of neural tube defects. According to certain studies, folic acid may come in very handy when it comes to prevention of anencephaly and spina bifida. The recommended daily dose of folic acid is somewhere around 400 micrograms, but women who have already had a pregnancy associated with neural tube defects need to increase that recommended daily dosage up to 4000 micrograms per day. This increased dosage needs to be ingested on a regular daily basis at least for one month before the actual conception and it needs to last all the way through the first trimester of pregnancy.

Relevant Statistical Data

Neural tube defects are rather frequent birth defects and they are among the main causes of infant disability and even mortality. The most common ones include encephalocele, spina bifida and anencephaly. Neural tube defects occur in one out of 1000 births in the United States. More than 4,000 pregnant women in the United States have the baby affected by neural tube effects. At least one thousand of such pregnancies get terminated or lost spontaneously. There are 2,500 children with neural tube defects born in the United States each year. Several scientific studies have shown that all these problems may be prevented by taking folic acid supplements, especially when combined with sufficient amounts of folate. In most cases, children affected by a neural tube defect are born to parents who do not have any family history of any similar medical condition. Folic acid supplements are very important and all women need to be well aware of them and their superior benefits, because another statistical fact shows that approximately 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are not planned. Another important fact is that the closure of neural tube takes place during the first month of gestation. According to some polls, there are still more than 70 percent of women in the United States who do not follow the recommendations concerning the folic acid supplementation described above. Women who already experienced pregnancies connected with neural tube defects are at increased risk of suffering from the same problem over again, so they need to ingest larger dosages each day, starting one month before the conception and ending after the first three months of pregnancy. This should not be achieved by taking over-the-counter multivitamin preparations because that may lead to vitamin toxicity due to higher levels of other vitamins. Women who are at a higher risk need to consult a doctor in order to get prescribed with a higher dosage of folic acid tablets.

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