ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
CANCER
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
HPV Vaccine Has Higher Allergic Reaction Rate
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
ER Less Likely to Diagnose Stroke in Younger Folks
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
DIABETES
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Eat Light - Live Longer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Radiation Exposure Linked to Aggressive Thyroid Cancers
Climate Change Linked to Longer Pollen Seasons
Golf Course Insecticides Pose Little Danger to Players
EYE CARE, VISION
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
FITNESS
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Football Can Shrink Players
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Good Sleepers More Likely to Eat Right
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Cocoa in Chocolate May Be Good for the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimerís
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
SENIORS
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Healthy Diet Could Cut Alzheimer's Disease Risk
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
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Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Since the mandatory addition of folic acid to flour, pasta and other grain products took effect in Canada more than a decade ago, fewer babies have been born with congenital heart defects, researchers report.

Folic acid, a type of vitamin B, has been shown to reduce neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida or anencephaly. Now it seems folic acid may also prevent heart defects.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 required that folic acid be added to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice and other grain products. By 2004, the number of infants born with spina bifida or anencephaly had dropped 26 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Quebec, flour and pasta have been fortified with folic acid since 1998. In this study, a team at McGill University in Montreal collected data on 1.3 million births in Quebec from 1990 to 2005. During that period 2,083 children were born with heart defects, an average of 1.57 for every 1,000 births.

There was no change in the prevalence of heart defects during the nine years before mandated supplementation started, but the researchers found a 6 percent decrease in heart defects each year after folic acid was added to grain products.

"Our study offers new evidence regarding the benefits of the mandatory fortification policy, which is important both for the countries that are currently considering starting such a policy and for the countries that have already implemented it and are currently monitoring and evaluating its implementation," said lead researcher Raluca Ionescu-Ittu, a doctoral candidate at McGill.

The report is published in the May 11 online edition of the British Medical Journal.

Other studies have also looked at the benefit of folic acid in reducing congenital heart defects, said Dr. Diane M. Ashton, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes.

These heart defects are rare, but when they occur, they are severe and costly, she said. "If you can reduce such a significant abnormality by doing something as simple as a public health intervention by increasing folic acid in the grain supply and encouraging individuals to take folic acid supplementation, it's a win-win situation," she said.

In another study reported this year, folic acid intake was shown to reduce the likelihood of premature birth.

Despite a Canadian awareness campaign launched in 2002, many mothers still do not take folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant, the Quebec study noted. "Women at conceptual age should be aware of the preventive effects of folic acid and take it before becoming pregnant," Ionescu-Ittu said.

More information

For more information on folic acid and pregnancy, visit the March of Dimes.



SOURCES: Raluca Ionescu-Ittu, Ph.D. candidate, McGill University, Montreal; May 12, 2009, British Medical Journal, online

Last Updated: May 13, 2009

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