Folic acid has been known to reduce the risk of neurological defects in fetuses, but new research suggests it also may boost a baby’s heart health.
According to Canadian scientists, women who use folic acid supplementation during pregnancy can reduce the risk of having a baby with congenital heart defects.
Researchers from McGill University have analyzed provincial databases and found that the rate of congenital heart defects fell from 1.64 per 1,000 births between 1990 and 1999 to 1.47 per 1,000 births between 1999 and 2005, a decrease of 6.2 percent each year.
The decrease coincided with the introduction of a mandatory fortification of all grain products sold in Canada with folic acid in 1998.
Nonetheless, says Raluca Ionescu-Ittu, a PhD candidate on the research team, "[th]e level of fortification was established to avoid negative side effects in the general population."
"This level is not quite sufficient for women planning a pregnancy, who should start taking folic acid supplements at least three months before becoming pregnant," she adds.
Folic acid is a vitamin that can be found in a variety of fruits and green vegetables.