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Folic for frolics; Health.

Byline: Samantha Cope

TAKING folic acid is one of the best things a mum-to-be can do for her unborn child.

And following a ruling from the European Food Safety Authority, its role in lowering the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida is to appear on food supplements for the first time.

It comes after a campaign led by spina bifida charity Shine, which now hopes more women of a childbearing age will take the B vitamin as a matter of course.

Shine chief executive Jackie Bland said: "I am confident this endorsement will help us more robustly address what is a serious public health issue affecting one in 1,000 pregnancies in the UK.

"It will ensure women will be better informed and more likely to take action to protect their children from seriously disabling conditions."

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is needed by the unborn child to grow cells, tissue and organs.

During its earliest stages in the womb, that need is at its highest.

With spina bifida, a fault in the development of the spinal cord occurs during the first 28 days of pregnancy - before many women will even be aware they are pregnant. Of those babies affected, 90 per cent will also develop fluid on the brain.

Degrees of disability vary and the damage also causes bladder and bowel problems.

All women who could become pregnant were already advised by the Department of Health to take 400 micrograms of folic acid before conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Worried

Kathryn Craven, 32, from Leeds, who is 24 weeks pregnant, said: "I hadn't even heard of folic acid until I started trying for a baby and started taking it.

"I have a friend who got pregnant accidentally and wasn't taking it so was really worried something might be wrong with her baby.

"Maybe women should just take it as a matter of course to be on the safe side."

Women are also advised to eat foods that contain folate - the natural form of folic acid. These include green leafy vegetables and brown rice. But the only way to get the recommended dose is with a daily supplement.

Certain people need to take more than 400mcg, including diabetics, coeliacs or those on anti-epileptic medicines.

Here to help

Dr Rob Hicks, a regular consultant on ITV's This Morning

Tim Hart is a personal trainer at Reebok Sports Club

Dr Brett, Medical Director, Lloydspharmacy Online

Marisa Peer, named Best Therapist by Men's Health magazine

Send your questions to Ask The Experts, People Health Page, PO Box 4022, E14 5BX or email sam.cope@people.co.uk

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2013
Words:454
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