Folic Acid - It's Never Too Early
by: News Canada  
(NC)-The Folic Acid Alliance of Ontario (FAAO) has launched its first-ever,
province-wide campaign to promote the awareness of folic acid and its benefits in
helping to prevent birth defects.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is essential for the healthy development of a baby's spine,
brain and skull. If taken prior to conception, it can reduce the risk of having a baby with
a neural tube defect (NTDs), by as much as 70 percent. To be effective, folic acid must
be taken prior to conception because neural tube defects occur in the first four weeks of
pregnancy - before most women even know they are pregnant. And, since many
pregnancies are unplanned, it is important for all women who could become pregnant to
take a daily multivitamin containing a minimum of 0.4 mg of folic acid and to eat foods
high in folic acid.

"The information on folic acid and its benefits is not new," says Anne Pastuszak,
spokesperson for the Alliance and former Director of The Fetal Centre at the Hospital
for Sick Children. "In fact, the issue has been around for 12 years now."

So, why don't more women know about folic acid? A recent Ipsos-Reid survey
conducted among Ontario women between the ages of 18 and 40 years old, on behalf of
the FAAO, found that while 80 percent of women have heard of folic acid, only 38
percent of women understand that folic acid must be taken before conception to help
reduce the risk of NTDs. In fact, 41 percent of women had not heard of neural tube
defects and only 42 percent understand that folic acid may reduce the risk of having a
baby born with NTDs like spina bifida.

One in 1,300 total births in Canada are affected by a neural tube defect. Women can
reduce their risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, by taking folic acid before
getting pregnant.

All women who could become pregnant should be taking a daily multivitamin containing
a minimum of 0.4 mg of folic acid. However, more than half of Ontario women between
the ages of 18 and 40 years old do not take a daily multi-vitamin. Of the 43 percent who
do take a multivitamin, only 76 percent take a multivitamin containing folic acid. In fact,
58 percent of women don't know how much folic acid they should consume daily.
Women should also eat foods high in folic acid such as broccoli, spinach, orange juice
and sunflower seeds, as well as foods fortified with folic acid, such as white flour,
cereals and pasta.

"It's obvious that there is a great opportunity to educate women about the benefits of
folic acid," says Pastuszak. "Over the next few months women across Ontario will see
ads in magazines, buses and subways, information in their doctor's offices and
pharmacies, as well as a web site -"

Founding members of the Folic Acid Alliance of Ontario include: The Easter Seal
Society of Ontario, The Fetal Centre at The Hospital for Sick Children, The Spina
Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario, Best Start: Ontario's Maternal,
Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre and The Ontario Society of
Nutrition Professionals in Public Health. The member organizations came together in
1996 because they shared an interest in promoting the benefits of folic acid in preventing
neural tube defects.

Editors: These articles are for use in Ontario only

About The Author

News Canada provides a wide selection of current, ready-to-use copyright free news
stories and ideas for Television, Print, Radio, and the Web.

News Canada is a niche service in public relations, offering access to print, radio,
television, and now the Internet media, with ready-to-use, editorial "fill" items.
Monitoring and analysis are two more of our primary services. The service supplies
access to the national media for marketers in the private, the public, and the
not-for-profit sectors. Your corporate and product news, consumer tips and information
are packaged in a variety of ready-to-use formats and are made available to every
Canadian media organization including weekly and daily newspapers, cable and
commercial television stations, radio stations, as well as the Web sites Canadians visit
most often. Visit News Canada and learn more about the NC services.

This article was posted on August 3, 2002

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