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Women's Health

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Women Unaware of Folic Acid Benefits


Although researchers aren't exactly sure how folic acid works to prevent neural tube defects, several studies have confirmed that it plays a vital role in the development of the building blocks of a healthy brain and spine.

"Folic acid is beyond advice, it's a scientifically proven fact," says Dolan.

Hearing those words from a doctor may be the push that many women need to start taking folic acid supplements. The survey found that 90% of the women would be very or somewhat likely to take the vitamin if their healthcare provider recommended it. Only 20% of the women in the current survey said they knew that folic acid prevents birth defects, compared with only 4% in 1995.

Gail Frank, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says the message about folic acid may still be "new news" for many women.

"It's strange that women aren't locked into the idea yet. It should be as popular as a new dress, pair of shoes, or makeup. But it's 100 times more important," Frank tells WebMD.

She says there are only about 8-10 major natural sources of the vitamin, such as leafy greens, asparagus, and lean meats. But the form of folic acid found in fortified foods -- including ready-to-eat cereals, whole grains, and orange juice -- and supplements is much easier for the body to absorb.

"It's important for women to understand how what they eat pertains to their overall health and well-being as well as the health of an unborn child," says Frank. "They should be alert that there are specific nutrients that can prevent challenges their body and baby will face, and this is one of them."

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