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Abnormal pregnancy is an unwelcome and unusual event in the life of a would-be mother but it does happen. Studies have shown that complications in pregnancy result from a diet that is inadequate in the nutritional needs of both the would-be mother and the baby.

Much attention has been focussed on the role of folic acid or folates in the increased risk of certain birth defects called neural tube defects (NTD's). Folic acid and folates or folacin are both vitamin B compounds, which are often used interchangeably. Although they are chemically different compounds, they have the same function. Folates or folacin are naturally occurring compounds found in foods while folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used as dietary supplements.
NTD's are serious birth defects such as spina bifida, encephalocoele and anencephaly. In these conditions, the tissues that form the brain and spinal cord do not develop properly. In the Philippines, studies on folic acid and folates and it's role in the development of NTD's are lacking. Although it has been well documented in the United States (US).

The US studies found that people with poor eating habits, dieters, cigarette smokers, alcohol and drug users, and birth control pill users have increased risk to folic acid or folate deficiency. If one falls into any of these categories, it is even more important that taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid everyday is recommended.

Folic acid and folates are necessary for proper cell growth and development of embryo. They take part in the synthesis of DNA, necessary to make fetal tissues and organs early in pregnancy. They are also required in the formation of red blood cells. Folate deficiency produces immature red blood cells, which are unable to carry oxygen properly, a condition called megaloblastic anemia. It is for this reason that all women capable of being pregnant need to have enough of folic acid or folates in their bodies before and during pregnancy.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), 1989 of Filipinos for folate or folic acid is 350 microgram for pregnant women. The current RDA for the different nutrients including folic acid or folate are under review by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology (FNRI, DOST) together with the RDA Task Force whose members are experts from the academe and from the government and private institutions.

To meet the dietary requirement for folic acid or folate, all women of child- bearing age can take multivitamins supplements with folic acid in addition to eating foods high in folates. Chief dietary sources of folates in plants include green leafy vegetables (spinach, kangkong, asparagus), fruits (melon, oranges, banana, avocado) and legumes. Animal sources that have high folate content include beef liver and lean beef. Overcooking can destroy folate in foods, and the amount of folate absorbed from foods varies. A daily multivitamin pill containing 0.4 milligrams of folic acid can guarantee a woman of receiving the right amount of folic acid. At this level, no toxicity has been reported.

Give your baby the best chance to live and be healthy with good nutrition!!!

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