Planning a Pregnancy? - Don’t Forget Your Folic Acid!

Every year, around 800 children are born with a neural tube defect in Germany - as a result, their spinal cord and/or brain do not develop properly. This often means severe health defects and disorders throughout life, which not only affect the quality of life of the children, but also that of their relatives. Studies have shown that taking the B-vitamin folic acid before and during pregnancy can significantly reduce this health risk. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has published an information sheet in which it recommends that all women who wish to become pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily in order to support development and health of the growing child effectively from an early stage.

To the information sheet (in German):

In Germany, with a balanced and varied diet, there is generally no need for healthy adults to take food supplements. One exception to this is folic acid - the synthetic form of the B-vitamin "folate": Women who wish to become or are pregnant in the first trimester are advised to take folic acid in addition to their usual diet, which should preferably be rich in folate. The reason is that studies have shown that taking folic acid in supplement form (400 micrograms per day) before and during pregnancy can considerably reduce the risk of birth defects (so-called neural tube defects). In addition, during pregnancy (and breastfeeding), the requirements for folate increase and thus a more conscious choice of foods is necessary in order to achieve adequate intakes.

The information sheet is free of charge and can be accessed via the BfR website or ordered upon request as printed version. The sheet clearly informs about natural and fortified foods containing the vitamin, but also about why and when the supplementary intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended, and at which dose of folic acid the risk of adverse health effects increases.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. The BfR advises the Federal Government and the States (‘Laender’) on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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