Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Greater folic acid intake by pregnant women reduces risk of cleft lip in infants

While the preventive benefit of folic acid on neural tube defects in newborns is well known, scientists have recently discovered that women who consume folic acid supplements early in their pregnancies significantly reduce the risk of cleft lip in their infants. Cleft lip often accompanies cleft palate, a common birth defect. The research was published online in the British Medical Journal.

The study included 377 infants born with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, 196 infants with cleft palate, and 763 healthy babies born between 1996 and 2000 in Norway. The infants' mothers were questioned concerning their smoking, drug use, diet, and multivitamin and folic acid supplement use during the first three months of their pregnancy. Food frequency questionnaires completed by the mothers were analyzed for folate content.

Adjusted analysis found that women supplementing with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day reduced the risk of cleft lip in their infants by 40 percent. Folate from diet alone had a more moderate protective benefit, with a 25 percent risk reduction in infants born to women whose intake was among the top half of the group. Women who consumed at least a 400 microgram folic acid supplement, whose dietary intake of folate was in the top half of subjects, and who additionally consumed a multivitamin supplement had infants who experienced the lowest cleft lip risk, which was 74 percent lower than that experienced by the children of women who reported practicing none of these measures.

"Intake of 400 micrograms a day or more of folic acid in the periconceptional period seems to reduce the risk of isolated cleft lip with or without cleft palate in Norway by about a third," the authors conclude.




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