According to national health experts, the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets has increased the risk that many people may not be getting the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for health and well-being such as folic acid. This is because carbohydrates such as fortified grains are a valuable source of vitamins and minerals.

To draw attention to the importance of folic acid in a proper diet, the Louisiana Folic Acid Council is joining with the National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) in promoting National Folic Acid Awareness Week, January 24-30, 2005. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has proclaimed the week to be National Folic Acid Awareness Week throughout the state.

Folic acid is a B-vitamin necessary for proper cell growth.

“We know that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid before and during very early pregnancy from a multi-vitamin or fortified food can help prevent serious birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly (when the brain does not fully develop), by up to 70 percent,” says Janet Guidry, R.D., Chair of the Louisiana Folic Acid Council. “It’s important that women of childbearing age understand that by lowering their intake of enriched grains, they could be increasing their risk of having a pregnancy affected by a birth defect.”

To get enough folic acid every day, women should take a daily multi-vitamin and eat fortified grains in addition to a variety of foods as part of a healthy diet. Emerging research shows that folic acid may reduce the risk of birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate and heart defects, the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon, cervical and breast cancer.

“We promote the current recommendation that everyone take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.  Studies show that taking adequate amounts of folic acid can be beneficial for men and women of all ages,” said Guidry.

According to data collected by the Louisiana Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System only 71 percent of women are aware of folic acid, and 34 percent of women take a multivitamin containing folic acid daily. The Louisiana Folic Acid Council works to promote folic acid usage among women of childbearing age.

For more information about folic acid and National Folic Acid Awareness Week, visit the Web site of the National Council on Folic Acid, and the Web site of the Louisiana Folic Acid Council,

Contact: Meaghan Cooper, Executive Coordinator, Louisiana Folic Acid Council, 504-568-8154