Women who may get pregnant - whether planned or unplanned - should take a daily folic acid supplement to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Folic acid, a B vitamin, is important in the early days of pregnancy. It reduces the risk for birth defects of a baby's brain and spine known as neural tube defects.
Food sources of folate
Many different foods, including cooked spinach, asparagus, broccoli, avocado, artichokes, edamame, black beans and lentils, contain the vitamin in the form of folate. However, dietary intake usually doesn't provide enough to reach the daily recommended amount.
In Canada, folic acid is added to all white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal products.
The Task Force, a panel backed by the U.S. government, had similarly recommended in 2009 that women of childbearing age take folic acid supplements.
Now, the Task Force has reaffirmed the previous recommendation that any women who can get pregnant should take folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects.
The supplement, a multivitamin or single folic acid supplement, should contain 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams (mg) of folic acid the recommendations stated.
Folic acid supplementation is credited with preventing 1,200 to 1,300 neural tube defects each year in the United States, the researchers said.
Source: JAMA, online January 10, 2017.
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