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U.S. Surgeon General Announces New Folic Acid Recommendations

Monday, January 24, 2005
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Women at risk of Neural Tube Defects should increase Folic Acid intake

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona today marked Folic Acid Awareness week by reminding all women of childbearing age to consume the recommended amounts of folic acid each day.

Folic acid is a B vitamin necessary for proper cell growth to ward off such birth defects as neural tube defects, serious birth defects of the brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida). Research has shown that, if taken before and during early pregnancy, folic acid can prevent 70 percent of these birth defects. Therefore, every woman of childbearing age, even if she is not planning on becoming pregnant, should supplement her diet with 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.

However, women whose family history shows a high risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) should take 10 times that amount: 4 milligrams. It is important that this increased dosage be taken specifically from folic acid supplements, not by increasing the number of multivitamins a woman takes, because of the risk of vitamin A poisoning. Dr. Carmona urged all women of childbearing age to talk with their physician or other health care professional about steps they can take to keep themselves healthy.

"Last year we started talking about the importance of charting a person's family health tree; and this latest recommendation to increase folic acid intake for those at risk of Neural Tube Defects is one sound reason for knowing your family's health history," Dr. Carmona said. "We are working to bring the best scientific information to the American people. It still takes too long to get good health information from the science lab to the medicine cabinet. The good science that is being discovered isn't any good until it gets to the people who need it. We're working to bridge that gap."

NOTE: All Surgeon General press releases, reports and other materials are available at


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

Last revised: January 4, 2007