Eating Foods Enriched in Folic Acid Before Pregnancy May Help Prevent Birth Defects

The Grain Foods Foundation Reminds Women About the Importance of Folic Acid

During Birth Defects Prevention Month

Jan 05, 2006, 00:00 ET from Grain Foods Foundation

    DENVER, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- January is Birth Defects Prevention Month
 -- and the Grain Foods Foundation is partnering with the March of Dimes to
 remind women about the important role that enriched grains play in helping to
 prevent birth defects.  Of the four million women who give birth in the US
 each year, some 3,000 babies are born with neural tube defects.  Yet some
 birth defects may be prevented by incorporating folic acid rich foods, like
 enriched grains, into one's diet before getting pregnant.  Folic acid is
 needed for spinal cord development in the first three to four weeks of a
 pregnancy, often before a women even knows she is pregnant.  Foods made from
 enriched white flour -- especially bread -- contain important B vitamins
 (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin) and folic acid, which are essential in
 helping reduce the risk of a baby born with a birth defect.
     "One of our primary goals is to educate consumers about the important
 nutrition benefits of bread and grains," said Judi Adams, MS, RD, president of
 the Grain Foods Foundation.  "In particular, it is important for women in
 particular to understand that enriched grains are a primary source of folic
 acid, which is critical during their child-bearing years."
     "We are working together with the Grain Foods Foundation to increase
 awareness of the importance of folic acid in a woman's diet to reduce the risk
 of babies born with neural tube defects," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse,
 President of the March of Dimes.  "Folic acid is needed for spinal cord
 development in the first three to four weeks of pregnancy, often before women
 even know they are pregnant.  That is why it is important that all women of
 child-bearing age take a daily multi-vitamin containing folic acid and have
 sufficient amounts of folic acid in their diets."
     Between 1995 and 2002 neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida,
 have declined by 36 percent in Hispanics and 34 percent in white, non-
 Hispanics.  Yet Hispanic women are 50% more likely than white, non-Hispanic
 women to have a child born with these serious birth defects of the brain and
 spine.  Folic acid fortification of enriched grains was mandated in the United
 States in 1998 and since then products -- like bread, crackers, bagels, pasta
 and tortillas -- made from enriched white flour have been important for
 growing fetal development.  In fact, enriched grains have been fortified with
 twice the amount of folic acid found in whole grain products.
     "Most women know that they should eat a healthy diet during pregnancy, but
 diet is equally important pre-pregnancy," explained Bruce Young, MD, Ob/Gyn
 and member of the Grain Foods Foundation clinical advisory board.  "A woman's
 diet and lifestyle throughout her child-bearing years have a significant
 impact on her unborn child.  I recommend to my patients of child-bearing age
 that they follow a sensible diet -- which incorporates foods from all foods
 groups -- and exercise."
     In addition to Birth Defects Prevention Month, January marks Folic Acid
 Awareness week (January 9-15, 2006).  Both initiatives share a common goal of
 increasing awareness for the importance of folic acid consumption as part of a
 healthy diet.
     About the March of Dimes
     The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is
 to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth
 and infant mortality.  Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of
 research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in
 2003 launched a new campaign to address the increasing rate of premature
 birth.  Visit the March of Dimes Web site at or its Spanish
 Web site at
     About the Grain Foods Foundation
     The Grain Foods Foundation, a joint venture of members of the milling and
 baking 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
      Kristin Patterson, Mullen
      Michelle Marinelli, Mullen

SOURCE Grain Foods Foundation