If you are a woman who is reading this post, it is likely that at some point your doctor has asked you if you are taking folic acid, or a vitamin fortified with folic acid. That is because the CDC and the U. S. Public Health Service recommend that all women between the ages of 15 and 45 consume at least 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid daily.
Folic acid is a B vitamin essential for the construction and repair of DNA molecules, the genetic material which controls all body cells. It has long been known to reduce birth defects such as spina bifida, neural tube defects and placental abnormalities. A study out earlier this year also found that women who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy cut their risk of having a child with autism almost in half.
Every woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant is likely to be reminded about the importance of taking folic acid. As someone who tried to get pregnant for quite a while, I was asked this question hundreds of times and took folic acid daily for several years. Though I was asked this question because I spent years trying to get pregnant, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. That is why taking folic acid is important for all women of childbearing age, as birth defects occur very early in a pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.
Think about the women you may know who found out they were pregnant unexpectedly and were concerned about the damage they might have done because they had a glass (or three) of alcohol the previous weekend, or because they ran a half marathon, or did something else that concerned them. Were they concerned about not having taken folic acid?
Most women need a supplement to reach recommended intake levels of folic acid, especially during pregnancy. However, folic acid in the form of folate is also found in smaller amounts in foods such as green leafy vegetables (e.g.: spinach, kale), legumes (e.g.: peas, lentils, beans), eggs, yeast and liver.
Now, a new study reveals that folic acid is important for the health of generations to come. There is a potential mutation in a gene necessary for the metabolism of folic acid which not only impacts the health of your own child but it can also have detrimental health effects your children’s children, and quite possibly, their children. Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Calgary found that when either a maternal grandmother or grandfather had this gene mutation which occurs as a result of folic acid deficiency, their grandchildren and even great grandchildren were at risk of a wide spectrum of developmental abnormalities.
Is it possible then that some of the reason why this generation has children with an abundance of developmental abnormalities due to the fact that there was little research available about the importance of folic acid when our grandmothers or great grandmothers were pregnant? According to these new findings, that sure may be the case.
So, even if you are not trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about folic acid. It may become important if there is any chance at all, not matter how small, that you could become pregnant.
Do it for your great grandkids.
Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
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