(RxWiki News) This week is National Folic Acid Awareness Week, but the vitamin is important all year long.
In the second week of January each year, health officials try to raise awareness about the vitamin's importance for women of childbearing age.
What exactly makes folic acid so important? Women who get the right amount of this B vitamin have a lower risk of having a child with a neural tube defect. In fact, since the US required folic acid fortification of certain foods — like flour, rice, pasta and bread — in 1998, neural tube defect prevalence has decreased by 35 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Neural tube defects are birth defects that affect the spine, spinal cord or brain. Two common types of neural tube defect are anencephaly and spina bifida. These disorders can result in nerve damage, paralysis and fatal complications for newborns, among other problems.
To combat neural tube defects, the CDC recommends that women who can become pregnant get 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams of folic acid each day. This can be achieved through vitamin supplements, food or both. Aside from fortified foods, other foods that contain folic acid include beans, citrus and leafy green vegetables.
Getting enough folic acid is important for women between the ages of 15 and 45, and it becomes most important one month before pregnancy, according to the CDC.
Speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you are worried about your folic acid levels or are considering a folic acid supplement.
National Folic Acid Awareness Week 2016 runs from Jan. 10 to 16.