Folic acid is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy. Adequate folate intake before conception and during pregnancy, helps protect against a number of congenital malformations including neural tube defects.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) result in malformations of the spine, skull, and brain. Repeated studies have shown that the risk of neural tube defects is significantly reduced when supplemental folic acid is consumed in addition to a healthy diet prior to and during the first month following conception. In addition, supplementation with folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of congenital heart defects, congenital deformity caused by abnormal facial development during gestation, limb defects and urinary tract problems. Since, most of the pregnancies are unplanned, it is important for all women of childbearing age to get enough folic acid.
All women who have already had an NTD-affected pregnancy should also consume enough folic acid every day when not planning to become pregnant. When they plan to get pregnant, a higher dosage is usually prescribed.
Recent research has also shown that folic acid is very important for men who are planning on fathering children. This is because folic acid reduces chromosomal defects in their sperm.Children and adults require folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia. It is also used to produce the chemical components of the nervous system (norepinephrine and seratonin). This vitamin is also crucial in the development of DNA, which normalizes the functions of the brain.
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