ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Brazilian Mint Tea Naturally Good for Pain Relief
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
Stem Cells Might Treat Tough Fractures
CANCER
Minorities Distrust Medical System More
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
CAREGIVING
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
Hospital Volume Imperfect Gauge of Cancer Surgery Outcomes
Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
DIABETES
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
DIET, NUTRITION
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Imagine Food Aromas That Prevent Overeating
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth
Improved Fungicides May Be Easier on Environment
Lead Exposure in Childhood Linked to Criminal Behavior Later
EYE CARE, VISION
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Omega-3 Foods May Lower Eye Disease Risk
FITNESS
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Good Warm-Ups Could Halve Sports Injuries
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Can You Talk Your Way to Happy?
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Can a Bad Boss Make You Sick?
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Fewer Heart Attacks After England Goes Smoke-Free
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
SENIORS
Any Old Cane Won't Do
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
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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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