A pregnant mom’s best friend

- Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao () - November 22, 2005 - 12:00am
A pregnant woman is responsible for the health of the fetus in her womb. She must take precautions to avoid diseases that may cause fetal abnormalities, and abstain from drugs and other habits that may endanger her child. In addition, she needs to maintain a healthy diet to ensure that the normal development of her offspring is not compromised. To put it succinctly, the health of the baby is largely dependent on his mother’s state of health.

Folate is a B-vitamin which, in its synthetic form, is also known as folic acid. Normally found in green leafy vegetables, liver, cassava, kidney beans, asparagus, and other foods, it plays an essential role in the synthesis of DNA required for rapidly growing cells, including those in the blood and in all fetal tissues. For pregnant women, folate is essential because it has been shown to decrease the risk of bearing a child with a neural tube defect (NTD.) Results of extensive research have shown that adequate consumption of folate before and during pregnancy may reduce the risk of bearing a child with neural tube defect by up to 80 percent.

What is a neural tube defect? At 25-27 days after fertilization, the neural tube is closed and the brain of the fetus starts to develop. If the neural tube fails to close, there is abnormal development of the nervous system. Spina bifida is the condition when the neural tube at the base of the spine is affected. It usually results in physical disability and the child is unable to walk. An even more serious form of neural tube defect is anencephaly, where the cranium fails to form. This type of neural tube defect is always fatal for the fetus. Without a cranium, the baby’s brain is eroded.

During pregnancy, a woman’s folate requirement increases from 400 to 600 micrograms per day. The first trimester is the critical period of neural tube development when good folate status is important. Knowing this, the pregnant woman concerned with the normal development of her child should eat foods with high folate content.

To promote awareness on the importance of folate in fetal development and to demonstrate the efficacy of Anmum milk in raising folate levels, the results of a clinical study conducted at the Otago University, New Zealand were presented to members of the media at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas recently.

The Human Nutrition Department at Otago University is the largest university department devoted to the study of human nutrition in Australasia and probably one of the best known in the southern hemisphere. The investigative team is experienced in folate nutrition and is respected for the quality of its clinical trials which have been published in a wide range of medical and nutrition journals.

With Dr. Tim Green as principal researcher, a clinical trial was undertaken to see whether consumption of Anmum, a milk powder fortified with folic acid, increases folate status in women of childbearing age. The results of the study showed that consuming Anmum over a 12-week period substantially increased red cell folate and plasma folate in women of childbearing age. These findings demonstrate that Anmum can increase women’s folate status to levels that would be expected to reduce the risk of bearing a child with neural tube defect.

"The results of the clinical trial are a breakthrough in maternal care," says Laiza Filart, brand manager of New Zealand Milk Philippines, the company that distributes Anmum. "This is remarkable proof that could have significant impact on the health of babies. As a company committed to promoting the health of mothers and children, we are delighted to share results of this landmark study with doctors and mothers, in order to help ensure healthy development of babies while they are still in their mother’s womb."

A study conducted among pregnant women in the Philippines indicated that 21 percent who were in the first trimester of pregnancy had red blood cell folate status that was below normal. The local study also revealed that 12 percent of all pregnant women had low folate status. Thus, pregnant women may ask themselves, "Am I ingesting sufficient amounts of folic acid to ensure the normal development of my child?"

Angie Rocha, nutritionist at New Zealand Milk Philippines, says that drinking two glasses of Anmum every day provides the daily folate requirement of pregnant women. She says, "By drinking Anmum regularly, pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant in the near future are ensured of higher folate levels that will significantly reduce the risk of giving birth to babies with brain defects."

The Otago University study bolsters this claim.

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