Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, is found in foods and in supplements, called folic acid. This B-vitamin plays a crucial role in the synthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) synthesis and therefore is involved in the growth and development of cells. During early fetal development, the neural tube closes between 23 and 28 days after conception. Failure of the tube to close results in neural tube defects (NTDs). Spina bifida is the most common NTD. Scientists discovered that folic acid supplements before conception and during early pregnancy reduce the number of NTDs. In 1998, the FDA mandated that folic acid be added to any product labeled as enriched — the most significant being flours and cereals. Food fortification with folic acid has reduced the number of NTDs by 20% to 30% since 1998. Women who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume folate-rich foods and folic acid in grains or supplements to reduce the incidence of NTDs.
The goal of this program is to provide dietitians and healthcare professionals to identify the benefits of the B-vitamin folate in the prevention of neural tube defects and other health problems. After you study the information presented here, you will be able to —
- Define neural tube defects and their effects on children.
- Describe ways to increase folate levels in women of childbearing age.
- Identify health problems that are reduced by folic acid supplementation.
Gannett Education is a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Accredited Provider (#GD001) with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). This course is a Level 2 course.
Gannett Education is also accredited by the Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition (provider # FBN 50-1489).