Lack of folate during early pregnancy ups risk of brain defects on babies
() - November 24, 2005 - 12:00am
The first trimester of pregnancy is a critical period in the development of the unborn child’s brain. Yet many would-be moms are often clueless on what significant foods to eat to help ensure that their babies would not develop any brain defects.

Studies show that most pregnant women are not aware of the importance of folate or folic acid in their daily diet.

Vitamin B, commonly found in green leafy vegetables, kidney beans and asparagus, among other sources, was found to reduce a baby’s risk of developing defects of the neural tube, an embryonic structure that gives rise to the brain and spinal cord.

Folate deficiency puts the unborn baby at risk of developing the common types of neural tube defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida that usually results in physical disability, or Anencephaly, wherein the brain cavity fails to form properly and could prove fatal to the child.

Moderate to severe deficiencies of folate result in enlarged red blood cells, which could ultimately lead to a baby’s low birthweight.

"Expectant moms should be extra cautious during this period because this is when the brain starts to develop. Around 400 to 600 micrograms (mcg) a day of folate are needed to reduce the risk of NTDs by up to 80 percent," says Dr. Lyra Ruth Clemente Chua, head of the women’s health department of The Medical City.

Yet, getting the desired level of folate through food alone means giving close attention to diet, something most pregnant women are not usually inclined to do.

"You cannot expect pregnant women to eat about one cup of cabbage or a lot of kidney beans or tofu every day to get the required quantity of folate for their body," Chua says.

That’s why, she says, milk formula for pregnant women is becoming more and more significant as a better source of folate.

Because of this, a group of doctors from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand recently conducted a clinical trial to test the impact of taking a milk formula on increasing folate levels among women within child-bearing age.

Headed by Dr. Tim Green, senior lecturer at the university’s Department of Human Nutrition, the research was conducted among 73 women aged 18 to 47, who were asked to drink the maternal milk for three months.

Anmum, the country’s leading milk formula for pregnant women, was the formula used in the trial.

Results showed that the red blood cell folate concentrations of women who consumed Anmum over the 12-week period increased by 49 percent.

Further, the study revealed that women who drank Anmum had 72 percent better red blood cell status than those who drank ordinary milk.

Thus, the findings showed that drinking Anmum significantly improves the folate status in women of child-bearing age, helping ensure the healthy development of the baby’s brain.

The results of the study leverage Anmum’s position as the only milk formula for pregnant women in the market today proven by doctors to improve the folate levels of women within child-bearing age and thus, decrease the risk of bearing a child with NTDs.

"This is definitely good news for our moms-to-be and even to those who are planning to get pregnant," says Laiza Filart, brand manager of New Zealand Milk Philippines, the maker of Anmum.

"This study not only fortifies our commitment to ensure optimum health and proper nutrition of mothers and their children, but also guarantees that they get enough folate to help ensure that their child would develop normally," she adds.

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