Did you take your vitamins today?
You should have, especially if you're a woman of childbearing age. USA Today reported that folic acid, a B vitamin which is already recommended for women of childbearing age because it lowers the risk of some birth defects, might have the additional benefit of reducing by half the chance of having a premature baby.
The new findings were based on folic acid supplements, as opposed to folic acid in food. According to the paper, the U.S. government-sponsored trial found that taking supplemental folic acideither by itself or in a multivitaminfor at least a year before conceiving was tied to a 70% lower risk of delivering between 20 and 28 weeks' gestation and a 50% lower risk of delivering between 28 and 32 weeks.
The March of Dimes recommends that all women who could become pregnant take 400 mg of folic acid every day, since about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. USA Today explains that the neural tube, precursor to the brain and spinal cord, normally closes by day 28 of gestation, often before women even know they're pregnant.
This new finding comes ten years after the FDA began fortifying grains with folic acid. Folic acid is found naturally in foods such as oranges and orange juice, spinach, lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, broccoli, peas, corn, and brussels sprouts.
University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist Janet Catov told the paper that the new information about folic acid is promising, but says more research is needed to determine the source of optimal benefits: the folic acid, something else in the multivitamin, or a characteristic of the women who take them.
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