MDCH Recognizes National Folic Acid Awareness Week

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

January 9, 2006

To stress the importance of folic acid for health – especially women’s health – the Michigan Department of Community Health joins the National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) in recognizing January 9 to 15 as National Folic Acid Awareness Week.

Adding folic acid to individual diets has added benefits for everyone’s health, said Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan’s Surgeon General. New research suggests folic acid may also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer.

“We encourage everyone to get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. The preliminary research findings are exciting, and we believe that taking adequate amounts of folic acid can be beneficial for men and women of all ages,” Wisdom said.

Folic acid is a B-vitamin necessary for proper cell growth. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms of folic acid by taking a multivitamin daily, and eating fortified grains, plus a variety of foods as part of a healthy diet. All women of childbearing age should take folic acid daily to help prevent a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect (NTD), a serious birth defect of the brain and spine.

Spina bifida, the most common NTD, is the leading cause of childhood paralysis and presents lifelong challenges for affected families. In Michigan, about 80 babies are born with an NTD every year. Nationwide, approximately 70,000 people are living with spina bifida.

Thanks to continuing advances in medical care, those with spina bifida are living longer and fuller lives than ever before.

“We know that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid before and very early in pregnancy helps prevent NTDs by up to 70 percent,” Wisdom said. “Since half of all pregnancies are not planned, it is essential that all women of childbearing age take folic acid daily to help prevent NTDs – even before they think of becoming pregnant.”

Once a woman has a child with an NTD, she should take a greater amount of folic acid, 4000 mcg or 4.0 mg to help prevent the recurrence of NTD in other pregnancies.

Despite the concerted efforts of organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), March of Dimes (MOD), and the Spina Bifida Association (SBA) to get the word out, there are fewer women taking folic acid supplements this year than last, a recent study shows. 

To “B her best” a woman’s single most important step is to take a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid every day. Emerging research shows folic acid may help lower the chance of other birth defects like cleft lip, cleft palate, and heart defects.

For more information about folic acid and National Folic Acid Awareness Week, please visit the Web site of the National Council on Folic Acid, www.folicacidinfo.org and Michigan Department of Community Health Genomics Resource site at www.migeneticsconnection.org. Click on Birth Defects and Folic Acid.