Folic acid minimizes the risk of heart defects

The obligation to enrich food with folic acid introduced several years ago in Canada has contributed to less frequent diagnosis of heart defects. Although this regulation has been in force since 1998, it is only now that we can talk about its results.

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The analysis of the data of 6 million children born between 1990 and 2011 was carried out by scientists from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Folic acid in pregnancy (123RF)

The researchers took into account the influence of risk factors, such as pregnant age, perinatal complications, multiple pregnancies, and based on the available data, they concluded that supplementation with folic acid contributed to a decrease in the incidence of heart defects by 11%.

We analyzed the effect of folic acid supplementation on the risk of developing individual heart defects - explains prof. K.S. Joseph, research team leader. - Turned out, that in the case of serious defects in the outflow tract of the chambers, the risk reduction was as much as 27%., the risk of aortic stenosis was 23 percent lower., and by 15 percent. the risk of defects of the ventricular and atrial septum has been reduced.

Folic acid is the basic vitamin recommended for women planning pregnancy. It should also be supplemented in the first months of its duration, because it prevents damage to the neural tube in the fetus.

1. What is folic acid?

Folic acid is present in the literature under many names, including vitamin B9, folate or vitamin M. It is an ingredient necessary for the body to function properly. Folic acid is involved in the synthesis of nucleic acids (from which DNA is formed).

In combination with vitamin B12, folic acid is involved in the formation and maturation of red blood cells.

2. Folic acid in pregnancy

Even before a woman becomes pregnant, supplementation with folic acid is recommended. A daily diet is not enough to cover the need for this substance.

Taking folic acid lowers the risk of developing nervous system defects in the fetus. Its embryo is formed between the 17th and 30th day after conception. It is called the neural tube and it is then transformed into the brain and spinal cord.

In Poland, congenital neural tube defects (WCN), i.e. spina bifida, anencephaly, and cerebrospinal hernias are relatively common (nearly 1-2 cases per 1000 births). They can be largely prevented by supplementing with folic acid at a dose of 0.4 mg per day.

3. Food Enrichment

Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that the body cannot produce itself.

The introduction of a regulation ordering food enrichment with folic acid has had the desired effects in Canada. In Europe, this method is not widespread, as it is believed that it would have negative effects in some population groups. This is especially true for the elderly, where excess folic acid can damage the nervous system.

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