While pregnancy is associated with consuming larger amount of calories, the quality of food means a great deal too. Affecting every step of development of the growing baby, it is essential to make sure they get the right balance of nutrients. Add to that the repercussions of maternal nutrition on the long-term health of the child, much beyond its birth.

Can folate decrease chances of childhood obesity later?

In a recent study published in JAMA Paediatrics, a team led by Xiaobin Wang, M.D. discovered a link between low levels of folate during pregnancy and childhood obesity. The results indicate that lower the levels of folic acid, higher was the risk of their children developing obesity. This held true even when the mothers were obese. Interestingly, obese mothers with adequate folic acid levels faced 43% less risk than those with folic acid deficiency.

What is Folic acid and how much should I take?

In light of the study, folic acid’s importance in pregnancy is further highlighted. Also called Vitamin B9, folate is required for making DNA and other genetic material necessary for our cells to divide and grow.

Currently, expectant mothers are recommended to take 400 micrograms (mcg) daily one month before a planned conception, and another 400 mcg in the first month, as that is the period when the baby’s nervous system develops. This will help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spine, as well as in protecting from anemia.

What are the sources of Folic acid?

Folic acid is naturally found in leafy vegetables like spinach, Brussel sprouts, nuts, lentils and citrus fruits. Fortified cereal and bread can also help ensure sufficient intake. As it is a water soluble vitamin, and hence difficult to maintain stores in our body if not regularly supplemented. Thus women are routinely prescribed supplements during pregnancy to maintain levels required to nourish both mother and baby.

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