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Evidence Supports Folic Acid for Neural Tube Protection

Last Updated: May 05, 2009.

New evidence continues to support the use of folic acid supplementation for preventing neural tube defects, according to research published in the May 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

TUESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- New evidence continues to support the use of folic acid supplementation for preventing neural tube defects, according to research published in the May 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Tracy Wolff, M.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Md., and colleagues report on their review of evidence published since 1996 on the benefits and harms of folic acid supplementation in women of childbearing age to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

In four studies on the benefits of folic acid supplementation, odds ratios for reduction of neural tube defects ranged from 0.11 to 0.65. A study that was included regarding harms found that folic acid intake was not associated with twinning after adjustment for in vitro fertilization and underreporting of folic acid intake. In an accompanying recommendation statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that all women capable of pregnancy take a daily supplement containing 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams of folic acid.

"The function of folate is to act as a coenzyme in the metabolism of amino acids and nucleic acids. Its mechanism of action in the prevention of neural tube defects has not been established," write the authors of the recommendation statement. "Folate is necessary for the regulation of DNA synthesis and function and, therefore, probably affects important events in embryogenesis that may lead to neural tube defects."

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