Monday 13 February 2017

Marla Ahlgrimm: Folic Acid Vital to Healthy Pregnancy

Marla Ahlgrimm
Retired pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm explains the benefits of folate and folic acid in the following brief discussion.

Q: What is folic acid?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Folic acid – a B vitamin – is the man-made form of folate and a vitamin necessary for making healthy new blood cells. Folic acid is derived from many ‘enriched’ carbohydrates including cereals and pasta. It is also found in beans and leafy greens. Many OTC multivitamins also contain folic acid.

Q: Why is folate important for women?

Marla Ahlgrimm: While a healthy diet includes folic acid for both sexes, it’s especially important for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Folic acid protects a developing fetus against neural tube birth defects and miscarriage. Neural tube birth defects are those limited to the brain, spinal cord, and spine. The most common are spina bifida and anencephaly, the latter of which is almost always fatal shortly after birth. As well, inadequate folate can lead to folate-deficiency anemia, which is most common in women between the ages of 18 and 35.

Q: How much folate do women need each day?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Women of childbearing age should strive for 400 to 800 µg of folic acid each day. This is important even for women who are not planning to become pregnant since birth control is not foolproof. Folic acid is metabolized quickly, meaning it should be included in a daily diet.

Q: What is the best source of folate acid and folate?

Marla Ahlgrimm: The FDA requires that folic acid be included in processed foods such as cereals, breads, and flour. Some enriched breakfast cereals contain 400 µg of folic acid per serving – a woman’s suggested daily value. Folate is found in beans, nuts, poultry, whole grains, dark, leafy vegetables, and orange juice.


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