Folic acid can boost birth weight for healthier babies

April 18, 2009


I mentioned a few weeks ago the benefits of Omega-3 for premature babies and now there is further help to boost your baby’s birth weight by over 60 grams – and this is very good news for their long-term health. The British Journal of Nutrition has reported that supplementing the mother’s diet with of 400 micrograms of folic acid during the pregnancy is important for two reasons:

The prime reason is that babies with a low birth weight (defined as less than 5lb 8oz) have an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, ADD and depression later in life and sadly their number is increasing. Secondly, being underweight indicates that they have not had their maximum growth potential in the womb as this is dependent on their receiving the correct balance of nutrients during the pregnancy and folic acid has an essential role to play in the normal production of protein, lipids and DNA. Taking the supplement while already pregnant was seen to result in a 40 per cent lower risk of having a child with low birth weight and in fact was even more marked in women having their second child as when they supplemented before conception they saw a 240g higher birth weight compared with first time mothers who didn’t take folic acid at all.

It is recommended in the UK that women take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement daily from the time of conception to the 12th week of pregnancy, in order to cut the rate of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This is in addition to the 200 micrograms of folate that should be obtained from a healthy diet from sources like brown rice, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, and – interestingly – low calorie beer. Unfortunately, it seems that more than 90 per cent of women looking to start a family don’t have anywhere near this amount and so potentially are putting their children’s’ future health at risk.


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