This is totally different than the things I normally blog, but I think it is really important so I'm going to take up a little front page space for it. A recent study, reviewed here at Nature, shows that women are getting much less folate than previously consumed. What is folate? More after the break.
Folic acid and folate (the anion form) are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. These occur naturally in food and can also be taken as supplements. Folate gets its name from the Latin word folium ("leaf").
Why is it important?
During the late 1990s, rates of such defects in the United States fell to roughly 3,000 per year, a 25% drop compared with levels in the previous decade. This improvement is thought to have been a product of the government's decision to promote folate; by 1998 they had made it compulsory for 'enriched' foods to contain folate, as well as a suite of other vitamins.
So, what is going on now?
The decline may be due to increased consumption of wholegrain breads and cereals, which are not fortified with folate, says Joseph Mulinare of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in Atlanta, Georgia, who led the survey.
But ironically, the fashion for non-processed wholegrain foods means that folate consumption has now begun to fall. On average, women now consume only around 150 micrograms per day — less than half the recommended amount, Mulinare says.
What does a lack of folate put you at risk for?
The US Public Health Service recommends that women consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to help prevent developmental problems called neural tube defects, which occur early in pregnancy and give rise to crippling conditions such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Folks, we are talking about a 25% decrease nationwide in the number of cases of neural tube closure defects. That is huge. It's like what would happen to lung cancer if NO ONE SMOKED. All you have to do is get some folate. So, if you are eating organic, low-glycemic index, whole grain foods - you are probably not getting folate.
He suggests that all women of childbearing age take supplements of the related compound folic acid, even when not pregnant.
Get on it.