A third of pregnant women take much more folic acid than they need, a study published Friday suggests.
Despite their zeal for taking the crucial prenatal supplements, at least 10 percent are still deficient in other nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and B6, as well as zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
Women who use folic acid during pregnancy consistently have a lower number of babies with birth defects such as spina bifada.
You can't take too much folic acid yourself, but excess amounts of the nutrient can mask other deficiencies, such as a B12 deficiency, which can lead to nerve damage.
Scientists at Purdue University recommend that doctors review and clarify dietary recommendations for pregnant women to ensure that women receive a balanced diet – and do not throw away money for more supplements than they need.
Prenatal vitamins help ensure that pregnant women and their developing babies are healthy – but most get too much folic acid and iron and not enough other nutrients (file)
We all need folate, a form of vitamin B in folic acid, but it is especially essential for women who can become pregnant or are pregnant.
Only four weeks into pregnancy – before most women even know they are carrying an embryo – there is a crucial step in development: the neural tube closes.
The neural tube will become the entire central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain.
But if it does not close properly, children may be left with openings or protrusions along their spine or skulls.
More important than the cosmetic defects and depending on where the opening develops along the spine or skull, these problems may be associated with bladder-gastrointestinal problems, heart problems, problems with the nervous system or even paralysis.
For the tube to close properly, the mother's body must be able to create many new cells.
Folic acid or folic acid is crucial to ensure that that happens.
Foods such as nuts, beans and leafy vegetables such as spinach naturally contain folic acid, while companies add the nutrient to some & # 39; enriched & # 39; Foods such as grains, grains and pasta & # 39; s.
Most of us can get enough folic acid through our diet to keep us healthy, but women need an extra boost to support the development of an embryo and it can be more than just dieting.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women take 400 micrograms of folic acid for at least a month before trying to conceive, if they have a plan.
Once a woman is pregnant, ACOG suggests getting 600 micrograms and a maximum of 800 micrograms per day. Women who have already had a pregnancy that is affected by spina bifida or another neural tube defect should take even more.
Pregnant women usually reach their recommended daily intake levels by taking prenatal vitamins recommended or provided to them by their doctor.
These vitamins are packed with many nutrients, including crucial calcium, iron and folic acid.
But according to the new study, published in JAMA Obstetrics and Oncology, many women take unnecessarily high daily amounts of folic acid.
In their analysis of more than 1,000 women, Purdue researchers discovered that no pregnant woman received more than the recommended daily amount of folate from the diet alone, but one third of the women who took supplements did.
They also found that women took more iron than they needed to support healthy fetal development.
People can use an iron overdose, which can lead to brain and organ damage. Exaggerating folic acid does not cause actual damage, but it can mask low levels of another B vitamin, B12, which may cause nerve damage.
& # 39; Without the use of dietary supplements, most women fail to meet the iron intake recommendations and about a third fail to comply with folic acid intake recommendations, write the authors of the Purdue study .
& # 39; The use of a dietary supplement, however, substantially increases the uptake for these two nutrients above the (upper acceptable level).
& # 39; Because no woman exceeds the UL of food alone, this data can be used to help health care providers choose a dietary supplement based on the amount of nutrients needed. & # 39;
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