The Ziegfeld Follies were the epitome of glitzy, amusing vaudeville shows from 1907 to 1930. But today's Folic Acid Follies are no laughing matter: Only about 40 percent of North American women take a folic acid supplement, and the average North American gets less than half the recommended intake.
If this essential nutrient doesn't show up in the daily diet of women who can become pregnant, fetal development can be compromised. (We recommend that women and men get 400 mcg daily from a supplement and make sure to eat folate-rich leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, asparagus, citrus fruit, beans and 100 percent whole grains.)
Now, it's long been known that folic acid helps a fetus develop properly and prevents birth defects such as spina bifida. But maybe the latest research news will inspire every woman of child-bearing age, whether you plan to get pregnant or not (remember, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned), to follow the recommendations. In one study, taking a folic acid supplement from four weeks before conception through the first eight weeks of pregnancy cut the risk of having a child with autism by 40 percent. We suggest you take it for 12 weeks before conception.
And whatever your age, get plenty of folic acid every day. Tip: Prepared and packaged foods such as breads, rice, and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid, but they often come loaded with added sugar and syrup. So we say, avoid those and go for nutrition-packed leafy greens and a 400 mcg supplement!
Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show" and Roizen is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.