According to new research, foods fortified with the B vitamin folic acid have been found to reduce the number of babies born with abnormalities of the heart by 11%.
In this study data from a population based cohort study of almost 6,000,000 live births and stillbirths, which included late-pregnancy terminations, delivered after a gestation period of over 20 weeks was used. The study looked at data gathered over a 22 year period in 14 different Canadian geographic areas. The study was done in Canada where folic acid fortification was mandated in November of 1998.
Over 72,000 CHD (congenital heart defect) cases were diagnosed at the time of birth and in infancy. This occurrence rate was compared to rates of CHD diagnosed prior to 1998 when mandatory fortification was put into effect. The beneficial effects of folic acid were seen in certain types of CHD but not in others. A 27% reduction in heart outflow tract abnormalities was seen. Additionally a 23% reduction in aorta narrowing was found and a 15% reduction in holes that occur in the heart wall separating the heart’s chambers was also seen.
It is believed that women who are trying to get pregnant or are likely to get pregnant should start supplementing with folic acid before they actually get pregnant since it is likely that they are not receiving enough folate from their diet alone. Folic acid is required for cell growth and cell division and is considered a necessary nutrient for reducing neural tube defects in newborns in addition to reducing heart defects in newborns.
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