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A simple vitamin deficiency that can be dangerous.

The possibility of having a child with a serious birth defect haunts every expectant mother. Among the most devastating dev·as·tate  
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.

2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark.
 congenital defects are anencephaly anencephaly /an·en·ceph·a·ly/ (an?en-sef´ah-le) congenital absence of the cranial vault, with the cerebral hemispheres completely missing or reduced to small masses.anencephal´ic

 and spina bifida. These are also known as neural tube defects Neural tube defects
A group of birth defects that affect the backbone and sometimes the spinal chord.

Mentioned in: Birth Defects
 because the embryonic nervous system cells (the neural tube) fail to develop into a fully formed brain and spinal cord.

Anencephaly (literally, "without a brain") is the most deadly defect, often producing so-called anencephalic an·en·ceph·a·ly  
n. pl. an·en·ceph·a·lies
Congenital absence of most of the brain and spinal cord.

 "monsters"--full-term babies lacking a brain and the upper portion of the skull. The infant usually succumbs as soon as the umbilical cord is severed, thus sparing the mother the agony of attempting to care for it.

Spina bifida ("cleft spine"), on the other hand, is likely to affect the child and its family for life. Failure of the bony spinal column and overlying overlying

suffocation of piglets by the sow. The piglets may be weak from illness or malnutrition, the sow may be clumsy or ill, the pen may be inadequate in size or poorly designed so that piglets cannot escape.
 skin to close completely leaves the delicate nerve fibers of the spinal cord exposed, with resultant paralysis or other complications of nerve damage.

An unknown number of pregnancies ends in miscarriage because of neural tube defects, and some 2,500 American children are born with such defects each year. The cost of caring for those who survive is enormous, in terms of both dollars and the emotional stress on the family. Recent studies indicate, however, that many neural tube defects can be prevented by adequate dietary intake of the vitamin folio acid.

Folio acid, in the form of folates derived from it, is found in many foods, but cooking can destroy as much as 90 percent of it.

All tissues require folate folate /fo·late/ (fo´lat)
1. the anionic form of folic acid.

2. more generally, any of a group of substances containing a form of pteroic acid conjugated with l-glutamic acid and having a variety of substitutions.
 for normal growth, but the most notable sign of folate deficiency is the same form of anemia that occurs with vitamin [B.sub.12] deficiency. Folate deficiency is a common complication of alcoholism and diseases of the small intestine, in which absorption of the vitamin is impaired.

An adequate intake of folio acid is especially important throughout pregnancy. Because the neural tube develops very early in preg- nancy, it is important for women of child-bearing age to have an ad- equate folate intake before they become pregnant and to maintain that level as long as they are able to become pregnant. Waiting antil pregnancy has occurred may be too late to avoid the possibility of neural tube defect neural tube defect

Congenital defect of the brain or spinal cord from abnormal growth of their precursor, the neural tube (see embryology), usually with spine or skull defects.
 in the fetus.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center.  recommend that all women of child-bearing age receive 400 micro-grams (0.4 milligrams) of folate daily. Given the variation in most diets and the effect of cooking on folate, a dietary supplement is the best assurance of a continuously adequate intake.

For mothers of a child with a neural tube defect, the recommended dose of 0.4 mg is increased tenfold to 4 mg daily (4,000 micrograms) beginning one month before attempting to become pregnant.
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Title Annotation:folic acid deficiency
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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