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Folic acid during pregnancy can reduce risk of autism and other defects

Added: (Mon Mar 12 2018)

Pressbox (Press Release) - New Delhi, 12th March 2018: Mothers taking the recommended amounts of folic acid during pregnancy can help lower the risk of their children developing pesticide-related autism, says recent research. Folate has an important role to play in DNA methylation, a process by which genes are turned off or on, as well as in DNA repair and synthesis. As there is a lot of cell division happening in a developing fetus, adding folic acid might help in a number of these genomic functions.

Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin. It plays a role in cell production and division, including the production of red blood cells. A daily intake of 400-microgram (mcg) folic acid supplement is recommended while trying to conceive, and then for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.A higher dose is recommended for women with certain medical conditions or a personal or family history of neural tube defects.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Folic acid is important before and during pregnancy. It helps in preventing birth defects known as neural-tube defects, including spina bifida. Foods containing folate [the natural form of folic acid], such as green, leafy vegetables should be consumed regularly. However, it is not possible to get the amount of recommended folate from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement. Additionally, preconception folate supplementation is associated with a 50% to 70% reduction in the incidence of early spontaneous preterm birth.”

Apart from anemia and congenital deformities, folic acid deficiency can also result in the following: risk of developing clinical depression, possible problems with memory and brain function, higher risk of developing allergic diseases, and long-term risk of lower bone density.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Although the signs of a deficiency may be subtle, one can experience diarrhea, anemia, loss of appetite, and weight loss, as well as weakness, a sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations, and irritability. Those who are mildly deficient may not notice any symptoms but will also be lacking the optimal amount of this nutrient needed for the baby's early embryonic development.”

Some tips from HCFI.
• Pregnant women should include as many food categories rich in Folic Acid as possible in their diet, apart from supplementation.
• Fruit and vegetables should be eaten raw whenever possible as cooking destroys Folic Acid.
• Avoid alcohol as it leads to Folic Acid deficiency
• Pregnant women have higher requirements for Folic Acidand should take supplementsas advised by the doctor/dietician/nurse.
• Increase the use of wheat flour and soya flour in baking and food preparation

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