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- The ARC - California Edition -

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Folic Acid -- A Star is Born

On January 1, 1998, folic acid stepped out into the spotlight and became an additive for a number of manufactured foods. In this role, it joins fellow B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, and the mineral iron, which have been used to enrich refined wheat products for over 50 years.

A new federal law has imposed a folic acid fortification requirement on producers of such foods as wheat flour, corn meal, pasta and rice in order to increase the amount of the vitamin that the average person consumes.

This is especially important to women of pregnancy age since they need extra folic acid (folate) during the very early stages of pregnancy. A lack of sufficient folic acid at that time may result in seriously disabling brain and spinal cord birth defects in a newborn. These disorders are commonly known as neural tube defects.

This step to fortify breads and cereals with this B vitamin is expected to reduce the number of neural tube birth defects found in newborns by at least 25%.

Nutritional experts report that it will continue to be important for a person to consume foods which are naturally high in folic acid content. “There may be side benefits from fortification for all Americans”, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Evidence is fast accumulating that folic acid may also cut the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and possibly stroke.

Folic acid is found in citrus fruits, dark, leafy vegetables, beans, and peas. Other common sources include multivitamin supplements that contain the Recommended Daily Value (400 micrograms per day) for folic acid.


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