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Women's Folic Acid Levels Improving
Date:9/14/2007

y for low-carbohydrate diets, which may have prompted many women to move away from (fortified) bread and baked goods, the researchers said. However, "the slight downward trend after fortification seems unlikely to be functionally important" in terms of mom and baby's health, the study authors added.

Their study also cites a "lack of data" on just how much folate is ideal to shield against neural tube defects, and how much is too much from a safety standpoint. Right now, experts recommend that young women in their childbearing years get about 400 micrograms per day of the nutrient, which is also found naturally in leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits.

The notion of an ideal folate dose remains controversial, said Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice-president for research and global programs at the March of Dimes. His organization, along with others, is advocating an increase in fortification levels.

According to Katz, there's been a decline in neural tube defects of about 45 percent in every country that has adopted a folic acid fortification program. That still falls well short of the 75 percent drop that experts had hoped to see, he said.

On the plus side, there's no danger of adverse effects from folate "at the levels currently used in the United States," Katz said.

"There has been absolutely no evidence that it has caused undesirable side effects," he said. "In areas where [fortification and consumption levels] are higher, such as Chile, the same obtains. So, we have absolutely no reason to believe that harm results."

Dr. Malika Shah, a neonatologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, affirmed Katz's position, saying that women who have had one child with a neural tube defect now frequently are given "an incredible amount of folic acid, and we haven't seen any negative effects. It doesn't seem to have a downside."

One folate expert differed with those assessments, however. Initial
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