DENVER, Jan. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- According to recent March of Dimes statistics, women of child-bearing age are missing a healthy dose of folic acid in their diets and the Grain Foods Foundation, with the help of Susie Castillo, is reminding women of the important role the vitamin plays in preventing birth defects during January's Birth Defects Prevention Month. Folic acid is needed for spinal cord development in the first three weeks of a pregnancy; often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. "Since the majority of pregnancies are unplanned, it's important that young women pay attention to their eating habits now and follow a well- balanced diet that is rich in folic acid," said Castillo. "In particular, because Hispanic women are more likely to have a child born with a neural tube defect, it is necessary that they understand the importance of eating folic acid-rich foods like enriched grains to dramatically improve their chances of having a healthy baby some day." Of the four million women who give birth in the United States each year, some 3,000 babies are born with neural tube defects. Yet many women don't know that some birth defects can be prevented by incorporating folic acid into their diet before getting pregnant. When asked about folic acid, and specifically its role in promoting healthy babies, 26% of non-Hispanic women did not know that folic acid helps to prevent birth defects. And, 36% of Hispanic women (who as a group are significantly more likely to have a child born with neural tube defects) did not associate folic acid with birth defects prevention. "Most women know they should eat a healthy diet during pregnancy, but diet is equally important pre-pregnancy," explained Bruce Young, MD, Silverman Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU School of Medicine, Director of the NYU Fetal Therapy Program, 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. Women should have an ample supply of folic acid before conception. I recommend to my patients of child-bearing age that they follow a sensible diet -- which incorporates foods from all foods groups -- and exercise." It is recommended that all women of child-bearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Foods made from enriched white flour contain important B vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin) and folic acid, which are essential in preventing birth defects. Products -- like bread, crackers, bagels, pasta and tortillas -- made from enriched white flour are important for growing fetuses. In fact, enriched grains have been fortified with twice the amount of folic acid found in whole grain products. Since 1998 when folic acid fortification of enriched grains was mandated in the United States, neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida, have declined by 36 percent in Hispanics and 34 percent in white, non-Hispanics. In addition to Birth Defects Prevention Month, January marks Folic Acid Awareness Week (January 8-12, 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 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 www.grainpower.org.
SOURCE Grain Foods Foundation