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 09, 2007, 00:00 ET from Grain Foods Foundation

    DENVER, Jan. 9 /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. About 3,000 pregnancies are affected by
 neural tube defects each year. 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 woman 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
 non-Hispanic whites. Yet Hispanic women are significantly more likely than
 non-Hispanic white 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 food groups -- and exercise."
     In addition to Birth Defects Prevention Month, January marks Folic Acid
 Awareness week (January 8-14, 2007). 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

SOURCE Grain Foods Foundation