50 years ago, folate deficiency was linked to birth defects

Excerpt from the December 9, 1967 issue of Science News


DAILY DOSE Although folate was required for all enriched grain products in the late 90s, and other foods are naturally folate rich, some women — especially those in minority groups and of low socio-economic status — still aren’t getting enough.

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Folic acid

Pregnant women who do not have enough folic acid — a B vitamin — in their bodies can pass the deficiency on to their unborn children. It may lead to retarded growth and congenital malformation, according to Dr. A. Leonard Luhby…. “Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women could well constitute a public health problem of dimensions we have not originally recognized,” he says. — Science News. December 9, 1967


Folic acid — or folate — can prevent brain and spinal cord defects in developing fetuses. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required that all enriched grain products contain the vitamin starting in 1998, birth defects have been prevented in about 1,300 babies each year. But some women still don’t get enough folate, while others may be overdoing it. About 10 percent of women may ingest more than the upper limit of 1,000 micrograms daily — about 2.5 times the recommended amount, a 2011 study found. Too much folate may increase a woman’s risk for certain cancers and interfere with some epilepsy drugs.

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