Last updated: January 06. 2014 12:47PM - 414 Views

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Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5 – 11, 2014, but folic acid should be a part of a healthy lifestyle every day of the week. You can start the New Year off right by taking a multivitamins with 400 mcg of the B-vitamin folic acid every day. Your body uses folic acid every day to stay healthy.

What is folic acid and why do you need it?

Think you are getting all of the vitamins you need from your diet alone? Think again. Most people do not know that it is hard to get certain vitamins from food alone. Many believe they do not need to take multivitamins because they eat healthy foods. Multivitamins help fill in those nutrition gaps in the diet, especially when it comes to getting enough folic acid.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of the naturally occurring folate in foods. Folate is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, liver and some fruit. The synthetic version, folic acid, is found in multivitamins and fortified foods like breakfast cereal, pasta and bread. Folic acid is easier for your body to absorb than folate, plus 50 to 90 percent of food folate is destroyed in cooking.

In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started fortifying grain and cereal products with folic acid in order to reduce neural tube defects (NTDs). While this was a great step in the fight to prevent birth defects, it is not enough to protect all women and their potential children.

Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin; therefore, everyone needs it in order to stay in good health. Folic acid helps build DNA and your body uses it for cell growth and reproduction, fundamental building block processing and genetic material production. Folic acid is water soluble; therefore it passes through your body very quickly. Taking folic acid every day ensures that you always have it in your system when your body needs it. For women in their childbearing years, it is particularly important to consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily. It has been shown to reduce the risk of NTDs in developing babies by up to 70 percent.

Since 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, it’s important to take folic acid every day, even if you’re not planning to get pregnant. The most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly.

Who needs folic acid?

We all do! Everyone needs folic acid every day. Taking folic acid every day, before pregnancy begins, is an important way to reduce neural tube defects (NTDs). These birth defects occur in the first weeks of fetal development, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Some women may be at higher risk. Not only do Latinas have higher rates of NTD-affected pregnancies, but they also have the lowest awareness/knowledge about folic acid than women of other race/ethnic groups. In addition, Latinas have a lower consumption of folic acid than non-Hispanic women.

The Kentucky Folic Acid and Perinatal Partnership works to educate consumers and health care providers about the benefits and uses of folic acid. The Kentucky Folic Acid and Perinatal Partnership recommends taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid, eating fortified foods, along with a healthy diet. For more information about the Kentucky Folic Acid and Perinatal Partnership or folic acid visit www.kfap.org. Remember to make folic acid part of a healthy lifestyle in 2014.

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