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 Naturopathic Medicine: Food for Thought: Nutrition and the Brain 
Lauri Aesoph M. ND ©

Folic Acid and Birth Defects
For at least three decades researchers have suggested that low folic acid intake during pregnancy is related to birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Two more recent studies, one in Hungary and another in England, are even more convincing that supplementing a pregnant woman's diet with this B vitamin dramatically decreases her baby's chance of birth defects.

Hungarian researchers worked with almost 5000 pregnant women. Every day half of the women received a multi vitamin and mineral tablet containing 800 micrograms of folic acid. The rest took a tablet with a minimum of nutrients and no folic acid. All the women took their tablets one month before conception and continued through their first trimester. The folic acid group had 40 percent less birth defects than the women given none of this vitamin and none of their babies with neural tube problems. There were six cases of neural tube defects among the newborns whose mothers who didn't take folic acid (13).

When English investigators gave four milligrams of folic acid each day to women who had given birth to a child with a neural tube defect in the past, the results were even more pronounced. Almost three-quarters of these supplemented women delivered children free from this birth defect (14). As of last September, health officials at the Centers for Disease Control recommended that all women of childbearing age should take folic acid as a preventive measure (15).


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  11. Nielsen FH. Nutritional requirements for boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, and arsenic: currently knowledge and speculation. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 1991;5: 2661-2667.
  12. McBride J. The making of an essential element? Agricultural Research 1989, April: 12-13.
  13. Czeizel AE, Dudas I. Prevention of the first occurrence of neural-tube defects by periconceptional vitamin supplementation. The New England Journal of Medicine 1992;327(26): 1832-35.
  14. MRC Vitamin Study Research Group. Prevention of neural tube defects: results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study 1991;338(8760): 131-37.
  15. Cimons M. US advises folic acid use to reduce birth defects. Los Angeles Times 1992, September 15: A1 & A17.
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