Why is folic acid important in pregnancy

Only half of pregnant women take folic acid and iodine as recommended

16.10.2020

Study shows a clear need for information among women of childbearing age and during pregnancy. Folic acid should be taken in addition to the diet in the run-up to pregnancy and a diet rich in iodine should be taken into account at this point in time.

Many expectant mothers still have gaps in their knowledge of their folic acid and iodine requirements. These are the results of the current study on the collection of data on breastfeeding and infant nutrition in Germany (SuSe II) *. Accordingly, women often take the recommended dietary supplements too late or not at all. In the study, 81.7 percent of the 966 women surveyed took a folic acid preparation during pregnancy, but less than half (45.4 percent) did so before the onset of pregnancy, as recommended. In addition to folic acid, pregnant women should also supplement iodine at an early stage due to the increased need, which only half of the study participants implemented. [1], [2] “The need for most vitamins and minerals does not increase until the fourth month of pregnancy and can be achieved with a balanced diet Ensure food selection. But folic acid and iodine are an exception, ”says gynecologist Dr. Klaus Doubek. "Your need is increased from conception and should be covered in addition to the diet by the additional intake of appropriate food supplements," continues the advisory board member of the two working groups Folic Acid & Health and Iodine Deficiency. It is therefore essential to provide information and advice to women of childbearing age, who wish to have children and at the beginning of pregnancy, about the need-based supply of vitamins and minerals - ideally, such discussions take place as part of regular preventive care.

Folic acid - starting with the desire to have children!

“Folic acid and natural folates belong to the water-soluble B vitamins and, among other things, play an important role in cell division and growth processes. An undersupply in the first weeks of pregnancy can lead to considerable complications such as a neural tube defect, the so-called open back, or premature births and miscarriages, ”explains Doubek. “A good supply of folic acid could prevent many neural tube defects. But 95 percent of women of childbearing age in Germany have a too low supply status, if one takes the preventive folate concentration in red blood cells of 400 micrograms per liter recommended by the World Health Organization, WHO, before and during pregnancy as a basis. " Reason, all women who want to get pregnant, in addition to a folate-rich diet with, for example, green leafy vegetables, whole grain products, eggs, dairy products and iodized salt enriched with folic acid, should take an additional 400 micrograms of folic acid - at least four weeks before pregnancy and during the first three months of pregnancy . If supplementation is started shortly before or at the onset of pregnancy, experts recommend taking 800 micrograms per day. [3] Independently of this, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends a folate intake of 550 micrograms per day for the entire pregnancy. [4]

Iodine - crucial for physical and mental development

The trace element is a central component of the thyroid hormones and essential for the physical and mental development of the unborn child. “Even a slight iodine deficiency can delay the development of the brain and impair the intelligence quotient. In addition, growth retardation, hearing defects or psychological and fine motor disorders are possible consequences. But women of childbearing age in particular usually neither achieve the recommended intake of 200 micrograms of iodine per day for adults, nor of 230 micrograms of iodine per day for pregnant women, ”warns Doubek. This is already shown by the results of the study on adult health in Germany, or DEGS for short, by the Robert Koch Institute. According to this, the estimated average iodine intake for women under 30 years of age is 98 micrograms per day, well below the recommendation. In the study, women between the ages of 30 and 39 only got 114 micrograms of iodine per day and those between 40 and 49 years of age on 129 micrograms of iodine per day. [5] “Younger women in particular should therefore pay attention to an iodine-rich diet with sea fish, seafood, milk and milk products, eggs, iodized salt and products made with it,” recommends Doubek. “To ensure an adequate supply of iodine during pregnancy, a dietary supplement containing 150 micrograms of iodine a day should also be taken. This applies all the more, the greater the proportion of plant-based foods in the diet. ”The recommendation applies to all expectant and nursing mothers in order to avoid a loss of thyroid function in the fetus or infant and to promote optimal development. [6]

* The SuSe II study was published by the German Nutrition Society (DGE) as a preliminary publication for the 14th DGE Nutrition Report, which the specialist society prepares every four years on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

** The Folic Acid & Health working group was founded in 2002. It brings together specialist societies, associations and folic acid experts from universities. The aim is to make the preventive potential of folic acid better known and to achieve a better folic acid supply in Germany.

*** The Arbeitskreis Jodmangel e.V. (AKJ) has been campaigning for the fight against iodine deficiency and a better iodine supply in Germany since 1984 with its interdisciplinary, scientific advisory board, as well as intensive educational work and greater awareness of thyroid health

Source: Press release working groups Folic Acid & Health and Iodine Deficiency e.V.

Author (s): äin-red