The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume at least 400 micrograms daily of folic acid, beginning before pregnancy.
Women are urged to take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid as part of a healthy diet that includes folic acid rich leafy green vegetables, orange juice, beans and lentils and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and enriched breads and pastas.
Once you're pregnant, increase your daily folic acid intake to at least 600 micrograms by choosing a prenatal vitamin with the right amount of folic acid you'll need during pregnancy, said March of Dimes.
“Most women should limit the amount of folic acid they take to 1,000 micrograms a day unless otherwise directed by a health provider,” according to the organization's web site.
New research published early online in the May 5, 2012 issue of Pediatrics, could give even more reason to fortify common foods with the B vitamin.
Kimberly J. Johnson, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, and Amy Linabery, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota found folic acid fortified foods likely reduced the incidence of the most common type of kidney cancer and a type of brain tumors in children.
In the largest study to date, the researchers examined the incidence of childhood cancer pre- and post-mandated folic acid fortification. They discovered a reduction in Wilms' tumor, a type of kidney cancer, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), a type of brain cancer, since the FDA first allowed folic acid fortification to cereal grain products in 1996, and mandated fortification in 1998.
Data shows Wilms' tumor rates increased from 1986 to 1997 but decreased thereafter coinciding exactly with the mandated folic acid fortification of foods.
"PNET rates increased from 1986 to 1993 and decreased thereafter. This change in the trend does not coincide exactly with folic acid fortification, but does coincide nicely with the 1992 recommendation for women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily," according to the study’s authors.