Folic Acid Awareness Week – Preventing Birth Defects

OCEAN COUNTY – “Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9 or folate is necessary for your body to function properly. Taking enough folate through your diet is essential for everyone and is especially important for women during their reproductive years. January 8 – 14 is celebrated as Folic Acid Awareness Week,” said Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health, “And you can start the New Year off right by taking a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of the B-vitamin, folic acid, every day. Your body uses folic acid every day to stay healthy.”

Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator, said, “If you think you are getting all of the vitamins you need from your diet alone, think again. It is hard to get certain vitamins from food alone. Many people think they do not need to take multivitamins because they eat healthy foods. Folate, a different form of the same B vitamin, is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, liver and some fruit, but 50 to 90 percent of food folate is destroyed in cooking. Folic acid is found in fortified foods like breakfast cereal, pasta and bread and in multivitamins which can help fill in nutritional gaps in the diet.

Regenye added:

• Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin; therefore, everyone needs it in order to stay in good health. Folic acid helps build DNA and your body uses it for cell growth and reproduction, fundamental building block processing and genetic material production.
• In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started fortifying cereal grain products with folic acid in order to reduce the risk for neural tube defects (NTDs), serious birth defects of the brain and spine.
• Folic acid is water soluble; therefore it passes through your body very quickly. Taking folic acid every day ensures that you always have it in your system when your body needs it.
• It is particularly important for women of reproductive age to get 400 mcg of folic acid daily. It has been shown to reduce the risk of having an NTD by up to 70 percent.

All women need folic acid every day. Getting enough folic acid every day, before and during early pregnancy, is an important way to reduce the risk of NTDs. These birth defects occur in the first weeks of fetal development, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.”

Visit the Ocean County Health Department’s website at or follow the Ocean County Health Department on Twitter @OCpublichealth or like us on Facebook.