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FOLIC ACID IN PREGNANCY CRITICAL TO PREVENT NEURAL TUBE DEFECT.

Byline: Dr. Fredric D. Frigoletto Jr. Special to the Daily News

Many women are unaware that during - and even before - pregnancy they need folic acid, a nutrient that helps to prevent a certain type of birth defect known as a neural tube defect.

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are malformations of the spinal cord or brain. Some of these malformations include spina bifida, where the spinal column does not fully enclose the cord of nerves that runs through its center, and anencephaly, where the brain is missing or only partially developed.

Spina bifida is accompanied by lifelong disabilities, such as paralysis of the lower limbs and, sometimes, retardation. Infants born with anencephaly usually do not survive.

It is important to take folic acid in the right amount at the right time. Unlike nutrients such as iron and calcium, folic acid cannot be ``borrowed'' from places where it is stored in the mother's body.

Since a fetus' brain and nervous system are the first organs to develop (within six weeks after conception), adequate daily intake at the time of conception is crucial. This means watching your diet or taking supplements even before you get pregnant.

Women who previously have had a fetus with a neural tube defect should increase their folic acid intake starting one month before they plan to conceive.

Rich sources of folic acid are dark-green leafy vegetables, liver, dried beans and peas and yellow fruits and vegetables (especially citrus fruits and juices). Breakfast cereals fortified with extra vitamins and minerals are another good source.

Beginning in 1998, the federal government will require that all enriched foods - such as most flours, pasta and rice - be fortified with folic acid.

Folic acid supplements are also available. Most women will need about 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams (400 to 800 micrograms) of folic acid daily. Most daily multivitamins contain 0.4 milligrams, which, if combined with dietary intake of folic acid, should be sufficient.

Not all NTDs can be prevented, but adequate folic acid intake can reduce their first-time occurrence by 50 percent to 75 percent - a real success story.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Aug 6, 1996
Words:349
Previous Article:IN THEATERS, DOES LONGER MEAN BETTER?
Next Article:UP & COMING : SENIORS.


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