CDC to Young Women: Take Folic Acid

Women Aged 18-24 Less Likely to Take Supplement Needed to Fight Birth Defects

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 10, 2008

Jan. 10, 2008 -- The CDC today urged all women -- and particularly young women -- to make sure they get enough folic acid.

"All women, especially younger women ages 18-24 years, need to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily through supplements, fortified foods, or both in addition to a folate-rich diet to prevent serious birth defects" called neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord, states a CDC news release.

That recommendation goes for any woman of childbearing age, even if she's not trying to conceive, since many pregnancies aren't planned.

Among U.S. women of childbearing age, only 40% take a daily supplement containing folic acid. That percentage is even smaller -- 30% -- among women aged 18-24, who account for nearly a third of all U.S. births, according to the CDC.

Among all age groups, young women were the least aware about folic acid consumption.

The CDC got that information from a 2007 survey of some 2,000 U.S. women aged 18-45. The survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization for the March of Dimes, appears in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; it has a margin of error of two or three percentage points.

Where to Get Folic Acid

Folic acid is found in many vitamin and mineral supplements. It's also been added to most enriched breads, flours, and other grain products for the last 10 years. Neural tube defects dropped 26% in the U.S. between 1995-1996 (before folic acid fortification) and 1999-2000 (after folic acid fortification).

Folate, a B-vitamin that's the natural form of folic acid, is found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and turnip greens, as well as in black-eyed peas and beef liver.

The March of Dimes is teaming up with the Grain Foods Foundation to create a seal that says "Folic Acid for a Healthy Pregnancy" for products enriched with folic acid.

Show Sources

SOURCES:CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 11, 2008; vol 57: pp 5-8. News release, CDC. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate." News release, FDA.

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