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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004 Sep 17;53(36):847-50.

Use of vitamins containing folic acid among women of childbearing age--United States, 2004.


Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects of the spine (spina bifida) and brain (anencephaly), affecting approximately 3,000 pregnancies each year in the United States. Periconceptional consumption of the B vitamin folic acid reduces the occurrence of NTDs by 50%-70%. To prevent these defects, the U.S. Public Health Service (1992) and Institute of Medicine (1998) issued separate recommendations that all women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 micro g of folic acid daily, and the Food and Drug Administration mandated fortification of cereal grain products with folic acid to increase women's daily intake. Fortification of the U.S. food supply with folic acid has resulted in a 26% reduction in NTDs. However, even with fortification, not all women receive adequate levels of folic acid from their diets. Therefore, increasing the use of vitamins containing folic acid remains an important component of NTD prevention. To monitor the use of vitamins containing folic acid among women of childbearing age, the Gallup Organization has conducted a series of surveys for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation since 1995. This report presents results from the 2004 survey, which indicated that although no substantial increase in the proportion of women who use vitamins containing folic acid daily occurred during 1995-2003, a substantial increase was observed in 2004, with 40% of women aged 18-45 years reporting daily consumption of a vitamin containing folic acid. This report also presents information about women's dieting behaviors. Regardless of dieting status, public health programs should stress the importance of women in their childbearing years consuming 400 micro g of folic acid daily through supplements, fortified foods, and a diet containing folate-rich foods.

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