(MedHeadlines) Young women are not getting enough folic acid according the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Only one in three women ages 18-24 takes a daily supplement containing folic acid. Folic acid is essential in preventing birth defects of the brain and spine. This age group accounts for roughly 30 percent of all births in the United States. “Everyone needs folic acid, but it is especially important for women of childbearing age,” explains Heather Hamner, MS, MPH, a nutritional epidemiologist for the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Prevention Research Team. “Folic acid has been found to reduce a woman’s risk of having a baby born with a serious birth defect of the brain and spine by 50-70 percent if taken before and during the first three months of pregnancy.” Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin that occurs naturally in foods including leafy-green vegetables, certain fruits, dried beans and peas. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that is found in fortified foods and supplements. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for folate is 400 micrograms per day for everyone age 14 and older. For pregnant women, the recommendation is 600 micrograms; for women who are breastfeeding, it is 500 micrograms.