Many Americans do not consume enough of folic acid, a B vitamin. In the last 5 years, it has been shown that increasing folate consumption with folic acid supplements will prevent some birth defects and may reduce the risk of occlusive vascular disease.1-3 Consumption of supplemental folic acid in addition to folates contained in the usual diet can prevent half to three quarters of cases of spina bifida and anencephaly (SBA), two of the most common and severe birth defects. Furthermore, for many people increased consumption of folic acid substantially lowers the plasma concentration of homocysteine, an emerging risk factor for occlusive cardiovascular disease.
See also p 1698.
Folates are a class of compounds with the vitamin properties of folic acid (pteroylmonoglutamic acid). Folic acid is a folate that is used in vitamin supplements, and a number of other folate compounds occur naturally in foods, such as green vegetables.
Oakley GP, Erickson JD, Adams MJ. Urgent Need to Increase Folic Acid Consumption. JAMA. 1995;274(21):1717-1718. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530210071034