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The Importance of Folic Acid in Diet

Posted on: June 9th, 2016 by admin No Comments

Folic acid is often a prescribed supplement during pregnancy as it is crucial in the development of a fetus into a healthy baby. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) actually recommends that not only woman who are pregnant, but those who are planning to have a child should also get a certain level of folic acid daily- 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams to be exact. Folic acid can be consumed in supplements, but is also naturally found in many greens as well as fortified grains.

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects in growing fetuses, namely by thwarting a condition known as spina bifida, which occurs when the baby did not have enough folic acid and consists of anencephaly and potentially major mental defects. This shortage of folic acid is most dangerous in the first trimester of development of the baby. Unfortunately, many women are not aware of these risks and put their newborns at risk by not getting the USPSTF recommended daily amounts of folic acid.

A 2007-2012 survey of women across the United States found that only about 29 percent of women at childbearing age were taking a folic acid supplement. Of those who were taking a supplement, only half were taking the right amount. Part of the issue here is also that not all supplements that contain folic acid have enough to meet the requirement- this makes it important for women to read and understand the labels of products to know what is really in there. This is where provider education from health professionals including pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and chiropractic professionals is particularly important. These providers can have a positive outcome impact by educating their patients on the need for folic acid and how to obtain the right amount.

The good part of folic acid supplementation is that the tablets are generally very small in size, so most patients do not have an issue with them. Furthermore, since the supplement is existent in a number of foods, it is possible to obtain it that way. Finally, it does not cost much even out of pocket or over the counter, so people should not have many access issues with it (and if prescribed, the vast majority of insurance plans are likely to cover it under the pharmacy benefit due to the medical need and relatively low cost).

Patients and women of all ages should really be educated on the need for folic acid and how they can get it. There are not really any significant downsides or side effects to supplementation, so it is something all women should consider in order to protect the health of their future baby. The literature on this topic is fairly robust and there are many case reports and stronger clinical studies showing the impact that the lack of folic acid has had in certain women and their children- it is something easily avoidable and because of that worth the time to educate and teach about. If you are in a situation where you may have a child, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about folic acid supplementation.

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