Thursday, March 15, 2007

Folic Acid During Pregnancy Helps Prevent Cleft Lip, Recent Study Shows

Most of us know someone who has a cleft lip, so I find this study very important. Read how a study found that taking folic acid supplements can reduce cleft lip by about a third. ____________________________________________________________ A study published in the March 2007 issue of the British Medical Journal found that taking folic acid supplements during the first trimester "reduced the risk of isolated cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) by about a third." Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences studied 1,336 infants born between 1996 and 2001 in Norway. The discovered that consuming at least 400mg of folic acid daily during early pregnancy reduced the risk for infants developing isolated cleft lip. Mothers who also had folate-rich diets and took multi-vitamins saw the lowest rates. Previous studies have shown that folic acid helps to prevent cleft palate, as well. Folic Acid is a B vitamin that contributes to the healthy development of cells. Folate is the form of this particular vitamin as it occurs naturally in foods, such as citrus fruits, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and beans. Folic Acid is considered more digestible and useable than folate. A study done in 1997 showed that as many as 1 in 7 people may have a genetic mutation that interferes with their ability to process folate. Oral-facial clefts occur when parts of the mouth or lips do not develop completely in an unborn fetus. Parts of the skin or soft tissues do not come together and leave gaps. They occur in approximately 1 out of every 1000 births, effect more boys than girls, and according to, "occur more often in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent." They are considered the most common birth defect. Cleft lip can be diagnosed during an ultrasound, and cleft palate is identifiable at birth. In most cases, both are 100% treatable. Untreated, they can cause dental complications, speech problems, and increase a child's susceptibility to colds, earaches, and hearing loss. Infants with a cleft lip or palate experience more difficulty nursing or using a bottle (visit for more information on how to breastfeed an infant with oral-facial clefts). Pregnant women are typically advised to take folic acid supplements to help prevent spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal column does not completely close during development. However, it actually reduces the risk of all neural tube defects by up to 70%. Early research studies are showing a relationship between folic acid consumption during pregnancy and a reduction in heart defects, as well. Source