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Folate May Not Protect Against Premature Birth
Date:2/10/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- In a study that included data on nearly 73,000 Norwegian women, researchers found that taking folate during pregnancy didn't appear to reduce the rate of premature births.

"[Our] data do not support a protective effect of folate on spontaneous preterm delivery frequency, but folate does not seem to have an adverse effect on pregnancy either," said study author Dr. Verena Sengpiel, from the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden.

This finding sharply contrasts with those of a U.S. study reported in 2008 that found that taking folate for a year before getting pregnant could drop the risk of preterm birth by as much as 70 percent.

However, despite this debate over preterm birth benefits, folate is still recommended by health experts before and during pregnancy because this important vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects, according to the March of Dimes. The synthetic, or supplement, version of folate is called folic acid.

The March of Dimes recommends that every woman of childbearing age take a multivitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Folate is found naturally in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, black beans, melon and peanuts. In addition, many foods have been enriched with folic acid, such as breads and cereals.

The current study used information from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study that included 72,989 children. Data for this study was gathered between 1999 and 2006, according to Sengpiel.

From that group, the researchers found 955 cases of spontaneous preterm birth. The researchers also identified 18,075 women for the control group. The women provided information on their folic acid intake during pregnancy at 17, 22 and 30 weeks.

Sengpiel said that most women in Norway are deficient in folate because foods aren't
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