More Women Take Vitamins With Folic Acid
Folic Acid Is Recommended for Every Woman of Childbearing Age
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 16, 2004 -- Taking a multivitamin containing folic acid is a daily
routine for more young women than ever before.
Forty percent of American women aged 18-45 take a daily multivitamin
containing folic acid, according to the March of Dimes.
That's a record high since the March of Dimes started tracking folic acid
supplementation in 1995.
This year's numbers are eight percentage points higher than 2003 and a big
improvement since 1995, when only 28% of American women took a daily
multivitamin containing folic acid.
The results are based on a Gallup Organization poll for the March of Dimes.
The phone survey, conducted this spring, included more than 2,000 women aged
Folic Acid's Importance
Folic acid and folate are B-vitamin complexes. Folic acid is rarely found in
foods and must be supplemented as a vitamin. Green leafy vegetables (foliage)
are rich sources of folate and provide the basis for its name. Citrus fruit
juices, legumes, and fortified cereals are also excellent sources of folate.
|Spinach (cooked)||1/2 cup||131 micrograms|
|Asparagus (cooked)||1/2 cup (~ 6 spears)||131 micrograms|
|Lentils (cooked)||1/2 cup||179 micrograms|
|Garbanzo beans (cooked)||1/2 cup||141 micrograms|
The vitamin has an important role in cell metabolism -- helping cells divide
and grow. Certain conditions increase the body's need for the folic acid, such
as pregnancy. A deficiency of the vitamin may not lead to immediate and obvious
During the initial stages of pregnancy there is an extremely rapid growth of
cells of a fetus. When the vitamin is taken before conception, it reduces the
occurrence of neural tube defects by 50%-70%, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, which provided a grant for the March of Dimes
Neural tube defects are serious birth defects of the brain and spine,
affecting about 3,000 U.S. pregnancies per year, says the CDC. The conditions
can be devastating and even fatal.
Since 1992, the U.S. government has recommended that women of childbearing
age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.
The advice applies to all women, whether or not they're planning to get
Women must take folic acid before becoming pregnant to help prevent neural
Since many pregnancies are unplanned, it's best to take folic acid every
day, just in case.
To help women get enough folic acid, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
has, for years, ordered that grain-based products, such as bread and pasta, be
fortified with folic acid.
But when people cut back on carbohydrates, they often skip foods enriched
with folic acid.
It's a common problem.
The March of Dimes survey showed that 24% of American women aged 18-45
dieted during the previous six months. Nearly half followed a low-carb
"These women have a particular need to supplement their diets with 400
micrograms of folic acid daily because many of the enriched and fortified foods
usually consumed are limited in low-carbohydrate diets," says the CDC.
Some dieters are getting the message.
In the March of Dimes survey, 49% of low-carb dieters said they took a daily
multivitamin with folic acid, compared with 40% of on a diet that was not low
Thirty-nine percent of women who were not on a diet also reported taking
"Although folic acid now has a high profile in this country, we can't be
complacent in our efforts to prevent disabling or fatal NTDs from
occurring," says Jennifer Howse, PhD, president of the March of Dimes, in a