Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Folic acid link with low birth weight – pioneering study

05.08.2005


Mothers-to-be with lower levels of the vitamin folate in their body during early pregnancy are more likely to have babies with lower, or less healthy, birth weights, a study has revealed.



Conversely, researchers from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, who examined nearly 1,000 women and their newborn babies, found that higher levels of folate (found in some vegetables, fruits and cereals, and also known as vitamin B9, or folic acid) were linked with increased birth weights.

Expectant mothers who smoked were more likely to have lower levels of folate in their blood, which might explain why women who smoke often have lighter babies.


The health benefits of folic acid for babies are already known but this is the first time that folate levels commonly seen in UK mothers in early pregnancy have been linked with birth weight. The study is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Seven per cent of all babies born are low birth weight (less than 2.4kg or 5.5lbs) and they have a 50 per cent chance of having a severely disabling condition as a result of being too light. Healthy birth weights are a marker for good health in infancy and later life.

Researchers say that current NHS policy is to advise women to take folic acid at their first pregnancy check-up but this means that many mothers-to-be miss out on taking the vitamin in the crucial, early stages of gestation.

They also say the findings have implications for health promotion policies, adding weight to arguments in favour of fortifying everyday foods like bread and cereals with folic acid.

For the study, Dr Caroline Relton, of Newcastle University’s School of Clinical Medical Sciences, and colleagues studied 998 expectant mothers attending a hospital in North West England (West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, Cumbria) and their newborn babies.

The team analysed blood samples that the women gave during their routine antenatal visits in early pregnancy (averaging 11.5 weeks gestation) and recorded the amount of folate in their red blood cells – these cells show activity over the previous three months. They gathered lifestyle information, such as smoking habits, from a questionnaire, and also recorded the weight of each baby when born.

Medical evidence suggests that folic acid influences birth weight because it is an essential nutrient for growth and gene expression in the foetus. Smoking is likely to reduce a women’s folate levels because it is a significant source of oxidative stress and may alter the ability of the cell to metabolise and ultimately store the vitamin.

The best way to increase folic acid levels is by taking supplements but it is also advisable to eat folate-rich foods like green vegetables (broccoli, spinach), citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits) or wholemeal products like bread or cereals. The current recommended intake is 200 micrograms per day and women are advised to take an additional 400 micrograms a day before conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Dr Relton said: “Folic acid is highly important in preventing birth defects which affect a small number of pregnancies. This study suggests that it is also important in every pregnancy to help the developing baby reach a healthy birth weight. However, many women are missing this critical window in the first few weeks of gestation during which their baby really needs folic acid to grow and develop.

“The evidence from this study strengthens the argument for fortifying everyday foods like bread and cereals with folic acid. For example, in the United States, all wheat products have been fortified since 1998, with the intention of reaching women of childbearing age.

“Fortifying a range of foods promises to be a more effective solution than a campaign to encourage women to take folic acid supplements. Our previous research shows younger women and those from deprived backgrounds are less likely to take these supplements, and although some cereals are currently fortified in the UK, they tend to be the more expensive, brand-name products.”

The research was funded by the Westlakes Research Institute and the Minnie Henderson Trust.

Case study – Ruth Reckitt

Ruth Reckitt was rewarded with two babies of healthy birth weight after taking folic acid during her pregnancy.

Ruth, who runs her own maternity nurse business, was very aware of the vitamin’s health benefits and took the recommended daily amount as a supplement just before she became pregnant and continued taking it in the first three months after conceiving.

She said: “I knew that folic acid was good for me and my babies in many ways, and I’d also had sisters who had taken folic acid during their pregnancies.

Ruth, who comes from Hartlepool but has just moved to Harrogate, North Yorkshire, gave birth six months ago to a boy, Jude, and a girl, Nell. They were both over 2.4 kilogrammes (5.5lb) *, which is the marker for a healthy birth weight in babies.

* Jude was 2.6kg (5lb 10oz) and Nell, 2.9 kg (6lb 7oz) – twins are usually lighter than ordinary babies.

Claire Jordan | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ncl.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>