With 60% of Pregnancies Unplanned, Women's Pre-Pregnancy Diets Become Increasingly Important

Susie Castillo, MTV VJ and Miss USA 2003, and the Grain Foods Foundation

Remind Women of the Need for Folic Acid

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

    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
     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,
     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