Folic acid has an impact on fetus health

Jornal Estado de Minas | 01/18/2016
In Brazil, 52% of women become pregnant without planning to. The data is from a research called “Nascer no Brasil” [Birth in Brazil] - National survey about delivery and birth, conducted by Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) in 2014. In other words, more than half of the babies in the country do not benefit from protective effect of periconceptional supplementation (that precedes pregnancy) of folic acid or vitamin B9. This is because a daily dose of 400 micrograms (or 0.4 milligrams) is recommended to be started 30 days before gestation and continued during the first quarter of pregnancy. The benefit of using this complex B vitamin to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) - such as anencephally, spina bifida and encephalocele - has been already documented and consolidated in studies, which have been started over 50 years ago.

However, new researches amplify the protective effect of vitamin B9 for child’s health. Full professor of obstetrics from Faculty of Medicine of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Antonio Carlos Vieira Cabral mentions that folic acid supplementation prevents other anomalies, such as cleft lip and cleft palate. “In addition to face effects, it protects the fetus from congenital cardiopathies and negative effects of drugs the mother needs to take during gestation - depression and epilepsy, for example. In these cases, folic acid antagonizes the actions of these drugs in pregnancy”, he affirms.

New approaches also suggest a protection against autism and obesity. “We have researched the importance of supplementation with folic acid to prevent disorders such as autism and growing disorders in children, such as obesity. This is a limitless field and probably in the next years other benefits in this relation will be found”, affirms the specialist.

Cabral says that folic acid started to be used empirically. “Pregnant women took the folic acid and researchers observed the result in order to search later for an explanation for the positive effects in the prevention of NTDs. In the last 20 years, researches have had the objective to understand the benefit of supplementation to avoid other anomalies. Recently, studies demonstrated the capacity of folic acid to form DNA. In addition to help genetic code, this vitamin promotes gene expression, it means, it facilitates the gene to express adequately. Today it is known that folic acid is directly related to genetics”, he explains. In this new approach, according to him, it is known that folate has as action on neurodevelopment maturation of fetus.
 
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