This January, as part of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the Grain Foods Foundation has partnered with the March of Dimes to remind all women of child-bearing age of the important role folic acid plays in preventing birth defects. Daily consumption of the B vitamin folic acid, beginning before pregnancy, is crucial as neural tube defects, birth defects of the brain and spine such as spina bifida, can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
"Folic acid is an essential nutrient that can help prevent certain very serious birth defects of the brain and spine," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "All women who can become pregnant should eat a balanced diet, including foods that are rich in folic acid."
The March of Dimes urges all women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily beginning before pregnancy and continuing into the early months of pregnancy.
"Bread, crackers, bagels, pasta, pretzels and tortillas made from fortified, enriched white flour are important sources of folic acid," said Judi Adams MS, RD and president of the Grain Foods Foundation. "In fact, enriched grains are the primary source of folic acid in the diet of Americans."
Daily consumption of folic acid is particularly important for the Hispanic community, as Hispanic women are twice as likely as the rest of the population to have a baby born with a neural tube defect.
"Because Hispanic women are more likely to have a child born with a neural tube defect, it is critical that they boost their folic acid intake before they get pregnant," explained Adams. "Eating enriched grains — like white bread and tortillas — are an easy way to meet folic acid requirements."
About the Grain Foods Foundation
The Grain Foods Foundation, a joint venture of members of the milling, baking and allied industries formed in 2004, is dedicated to advancing the public's understanding of the beneficial role grain-based foods play in the human diet. Directed by a board of trustees, funding for the Foundation is provided through voluntary donations from private grain-based food companies and is supplemented by industry associations. For more information about the Grain Foods Foundation, visit gowiththegrain.org.
About the March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its signature event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies. For the latest resources and information, visit www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/folicacid.html or nacersano.org.