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Birth defects

A healthy diet before and during pregnancy helps both the mother and child. Birth defects occur in one out of 28 births. There are about 4000 different birth defects in which not all are related to diet. Despite ongoing research, the causes of about 60 percent of birth defects are unknown. In the early 1990's, it was discovered that, by taking the B vitamin folic acid daily, women could reduce the risk of having a child with birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Although the cause of 60 percent of birth defects are unknown, a healthy diet can help in the prevention of some birth defects such as, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, Listeriosis, and Salmonellosis, which I will further discuss.

Folic acid, which is found naturally in certain foods, is also known as folate, a b type vitamin. With an increased intake of folic acid by the mother, it is estimated the 70% of some types of serious birth defects can be prevented. Research has shown that an increased intake of folic acid can decrease the risk for such birth defects as spina bifida, Anencephaly and encephaolcele, which affects the fetus’s brain and spine. Spina bifida occurs when a baby’s spine does not form properly. Part of the spinal cord may be outside the bones of the spine. This can lead to several muscle weaknesses, poor bladder and bowel movement, loss of sensation in the legs, and paralysis. In 1996 the food and drug administration emphasized a rule requiring that all enriched grain products be fortified with folic acid, the rule officially took effect January 1998. The U.S Public Health Service recommends that women of childbearing years should take about 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Good dietary sources of folate are:

• Cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils

• Spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, beets, broccoli, corn, peas, tomato juice, vegetable juice cocktail, Brussels sprouts, gai-lan, bok choy

• Orange juice, canned pineapple juice, cantaloupe, honeydew, canned grapefruit juice, banana, raspberries, grapefruit, strawberries

• Enriched grain products like pasta, cereals, bread; whole grain breads and cereals

• Peanut butter, sunflower seeds.

Other than neural tube defects, it has been discovered that a deficiency in folate can, in part, contribute to the start of chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS, is feeling profoundly fatigue, and is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity.

Women’s calorie consumption is crucial before and during pregnancy. It has been estimated that 300 calories per



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