Fortification of grain foods with the B vitamin folic acid has saved about 1,300 babies every year from being born with neural tube defects (NTDs), serious birth defects of the brain and spine.
The number of babies born in the United States with these conditions has declined by 35 percent since 1998.
Annually about 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by NTDs.
"All women capable of having a baby should be taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day. It's also good to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice, as well as foods fortified with folic acid, such as bread and pasta, and enriched cereals" advises Siobhan M. Dolan co-author of the book Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide.
Another recent study finding reports that among women who had a prior baby born with an NTD those who took high-dose folic acid (4 milligrams) with a subsequent pregnancy were less likely to have a baby with an NTD than those who did not take folic acid.
The authors urge women who had a previous pregnancy affected by an NTD to follow CDC recommendations to take high-dose folic acid beginning at least four weeks before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first trimester of pregnancy.