Unless this is your first time reading a nutrition article,
you're probably well aware of the importance of adequate folic
acid intake before and during pregnancy. Previous studies
that folate deficiency can contribute to serious birth defects
such as spina bifida or anencephaly. Babies with spina bifida
are born with a defect in the spinal column that can lead
to paralysis and/or mental retardation; those afflicted with
anencephaly never develop a brain and are stillborn or die
shortly after birth.
Evidence also suggests that folic acid deficiency may contribute
to spontaneous abortion, and other reports have shown that
elevated plasma homocysteine (an amino acid produced when
the body breaks down meat and dairy products) may exert a
similar influence. A study in Obstetrics & Gynecology
examined these potential associations further in 123 women
with an average of three pregnancy losses.
Significantly lower average serum folate concentrations,
and elevated homocysteine concentrations, were noted in the
study group compared with a control group (104 premenopausal,
unrelated women who were similar to the study group in age,
geographical location and social class). The increased risk
for recurrent early pregnancy loss seen in the study group
was the same when adjusting for either variable, suggesting
that folate (low levels) and homocysteine (high levels) are
independent risk factors for early pregnancy loss.
These findings add to the considerable evidence linking folic
acid deficiency with negative birth outcomes. Consult with
your team of health care professionals during pregnancy to
ensure the health of you and your child.
Nelen WLDM, Blom HJ, Steegers EAP, et al. Homocysteine and
folate levels as risk factors for recurrent early pregnancy
loss. Obstetrics & Gynecology 2000: Vol. 95, pp519-24.
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