According to researchers from the Greenwood Genetic Center in South Carolina, birth defects in which the fetal brain and spine are malformed have dropped by 50% in the state since a campaign to increase women's folic acid intake began eight years ago.
Folic acid, a B vitamin found naturally in green leafy vegetables, orange juice and liver, appears to be the key to prevention.
In order to reduce the risk of birth defects, nutrition experts recommend that all women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, which is the current daily recommended allowance. During pregnancy a woman must consume 600 micrograms per day. Three of the most serious birth defects, spina bifida, anencephaly and encephalocele, are caused when the neural tube, which forms the brain and spine, fails to close in the first 28 days of pregnancy.
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