If you are a woman looking to start a family, or perhaps add to a your family, you may be becoming confused with all the advice that is now coming out. We wrote a few days ago about the types of food to eat to prevent allergies. Researchers are now finding that folic acid may be a leading cause of asthma in young children.
There is a bright side to this story however. Folic acid is an essential additive that helps to prevent neural tube defects (like spina bifida) in new borns. A diet that is poor in folic acid has been linked to increased incidents of these problems.
However, and here is the good news, extra folic acid is only needed prior to conception and in the first few months of pregnancy. Certainly by the end of the first trimester the need for extra folic acid is gone. The advice for women who are trying to get pregnant is to take folic acid supplements before conception and not more than several weeks into their pregnancy.
What research is showing is that for those women who continue to take increased doses of folic acid (over and above normal daily requirements for a non pregnant woman), there is a corresponding rise in the incidence of asthma in their young children. What is interesting however is the following statement:
" Dr Davies said having a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, certain nuts and fruits known to be sources of folate (the natural form of folic acid) did not carry an asthma risk."
So natural forms of folic acid are okay - it is only the supplements. It makes you wonder if it is the folic acid, the source of the folic acid when manufacturing these supplements, the carrier that is holding the folic acid, or whether fresh fruit and vegetables carry other vital compounds that help to neutralize any negative effects - or perhaps all of the above.
I have to say I have never been a big promoter of the 'fresh is best' kind - but I am starting to change my tune a little. Of course, fresh is best but it can also be the most expensive whereas frozen to me has always been the most convenient.
The message now for new mums to be - take folate (folic acid) before and for the first month of pregnancy, then stop taking extra folate. By all means keep on eating your fresh fruit and veg.