Folic acid reducesspinal birth defects

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    By SHAUNNA LEAVITT

    Women can significantly reduce the risks of one type of birth defect just by eating a good breakfast, researchers say.

    Researchers at the University of Minnesota Department of Epidemiology found that eating foods high in folic acid helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects, a spinal birth defect that can result in paralysis.

    In the United States, about one baby in 1,000 is born with a neural tube defect.

    Research indicated that adequate levels of folate in the blood can reduce the risk of a fetus developing a neural tube defect by 72 percent. The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida, which can be crippling. Other neural tube defects result in underdeveloped brains, which is fatal.

    “The problem is that most women don’t realize the relationship between folic acid and neural tube defects,” said Judith Brown, professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota and the lead author of the study.

    While women in their child-bearing years are encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet, this alone will not raise folate — a B-vitamin — to recommended levels in the bloodstream, according to the study.

    So where can women get the needed folic acid?

    “Almost any cereal, from Cheerios to Corn Flakes to Oat Flakes to Raisin Bran,” Brown said. He said Product 19 and Total have the highest amount. “But always check the label because some cereals aren’t fortified with folic acid.”

    One serving of Total cereal contains 100 percent of the USDA requirement for folate. Most other breakfast cereals, like Wheaties and Cheerios, have at least 25 percent of the daily recommended .4 milligrams of folic acid for women in their child-bearing years.

    Folic acid is also found in spinach, broccoli, chic peas, romaine lettuce and wheat germ.

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