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Get the Facts About Folate

Folate is critical to maintaining good health. The body needs it to make new cells. Up to 75 percent of serious birth defects of the spine and brain could be prevented if women consumed adequate daily amounts of folate in their diets, especially in the critical months before pregnancy, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA)

Scientific studies indicate folate — and its synthetic form, folic acid — may play a part in preventing coronary heart disease. A panel of leading scientists from universities in the United States and Great Britain, after reviewing three decades of research studies on folate, recently concluded: “The scientific evidence suggests folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 help promote a healthy heart.”

The Good News

Obtaining sufficient quantities of folate is easy, according to ADA. Citrus fruits and juices are high in folate; so are leafy green vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce; wheat germ, fortified cereals and pinto, navy and kidney beans.

Since 1998, the federal government has required bread, cereal, pasta, flour, crackers and rice to be fortified with folic acid.

The Bad News

Despite folate’s benefits and availability in many foods, many women — of childbearing age in particular — fail to consume adequate quantities of folate and do not take folic acid supplements, according to several studies.

All women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folate each day, but the average intake by American women is barely half that amount, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

“Many people, especially women, have much to learn about folate and its crucial role in preventing birth defects and promoting overall health,” said Edith Hogan, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for ADA.

“Folate consumption is a recipe for wellness,” said Hogan.

“If you are a woman between the ages of 14 and 50 and it’s even slightly possible you’ll get pregnant, make sure you include plenty of folic acid in your eating plan,” Hogan stressed.

For more information, visit ADA at

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