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Folic acid intake may reduce premature births by half.

Foetus

According to new data, the risk of having a premature baby could be halved if women supplement with folic acid for at least one year before conception.

The study on folate supplementation was conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. 38,033 women participated in the first and largest U.S. study on folate supplementation prior to conception.

Other links to folate deficiency include early pregnancy and increased risk of neural tube defects.

That’s why nearly all grain products (especially breakfast cereals geared towards a predominantly female audience) are fortified with folic acid.

Women of childbearing age are currently recommended a daily dose of 400 micrograms, starting before conception.

At the 28th Annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) meeting, lead researcher Radek Bukowski told attendees that the benefits were of particular significance against very early premature births, those babies who are at the greatest risk of complications such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, and blindness.

The study is an observational analysis based on data from an earlier trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Bukowski continued stating “This evidence enabled us to determine that folate supplementation for at least one year is linked to a 70 per cent decrease in very early preterm deliveries (20 to 28 weeks in gestational age) and up to a 50 per cent reduction in early preterm deliveries of 28 to 32 weeks.”

Another recent study purported that folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy could also reduce the risk of cleft lip in infants by 33%.

Source(s):

R. Bukowski et al., 28th Annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) meeting, “Preconceptional Folate Prevents Preterm Delivery.

Wilcox, A.J., Lie, R.T., Solvoll, K., Taylor, J., McConnaughey, D.R., Åbyholm, F., Vindenes, H., Vollset, S.E., Drevon, C.A., Folic acid supplements and risk of facial clefts: national population based case-control study, British Medical Journal, 26 January 2007.

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