Many individuals don't know that folic acid is an important vitamin for everyone, not just pregnant women. But local health officials are sharing the facts, explaining why this B vitamin is so important to our health.
Health officials with Two Rivers Public Health Department say everyone needs folic acid because bodies use it to make new cells.
However, this vitamin is especially important for women who may become pregnant because of its ability to prevent major defects in a baby's brain and spine. The Center for Disease Control says folic acid reduces the risk of defects like anencephaly and spina bifida by 50 to 70 percent.
It is recommended that everyone get 400 micrograms daily. Most people should be fine with the amount found in foods like fortified cereals and breads, but women who could become pregnant are encouraged to take a supplement.
Health officials advise the supplement even before a woman becomes pregnant because brain and spinal cord development occurs early in pregnancy, possibly before the woman even knows she's pregnant.
The number of birth defects in the area covered by the Two Rivers Public Health Department is 67.3 our of 1,000 live births, less than the state's 93.8. However, the number of neural tube defects is 1.2 in the health department's seven county coverage area, versus the state's 1.1 out of 1,000 live births.
More information on folic acid can be found at www.cdc.gov or by talking to your physician.