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PIA Press Release

Feature: Pregnant strongly advised: increase folate intake

by Ma. Susana O. Encarnacion

Butuan City (17 May) -- Jake and Sylvia are a young couple from a depressed area and from poor families who thrive on "hand-to-mouth existence". Amidst poverty, the two fell in love and vowed to stay together to raise a family.

After six months of being together, Sylvia experienced morning sickness and a visit to a nearby health center confirmed her condition. She is six weeks on the family way. Sylvia eagerly told Jake the good news and both excitedly waited for the coming of their new bundle of joy.

In less than eight months of pregnancy, however, Sylvia experienced contractions and was rushed to the hospital. Sylvia was brought to the operating room and gave birth to a baby boy. The baby, however, was unusually small, weak and pale. The couple's happiness was short-lived, for the baby was diagnosed of anencephaly and died a few hours later.

What is anencephaly and how can it be prevented?

Anencephaly is a kind of neural tube defect, often associated with inadequate folate intake and characterized by undeveloped brain. Babies with anencepahly are most likely to be stillborn and may die a few hours after birth.

What exactly is folate and what is its importance?

Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folate came from the Latin word "folium" which means leaf. It is one of the nutrients that prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy.

Adequate folate intake during pregnancy protects the unborn child from neural tube defects. Neural tube defects result in malformations of the spine or spina bifida, skull, and brain mentioned before as anencephaly.

Folate can be derived from green leafy vegetables, fruits like citrus and fruit juices, dried beans and peas. Whole grain and liver are likewise good sources of folate.

It is a sad reality, however, that despite the relative accessibility of local vegetables to Filipinos, many pregnant women have high percentages of sub-normal values of serum folate (51.7 percent) and red cells (37.5 percent). These figures indicate an alarmingly high prevalence of folate deficiency, as shown by the 2003 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST).

The typical Filipino diet still lacks the needed nutrients for good health, more, especially for pregnant women who are carrying the seeds for a brighter future.

For pregnant and pregnant wanna-be's, mag-folate na! Give your babies a headstart in this competitive but wonderful world we live in. Folate for healthier babies and brighter future!

For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Telephone/ Fax Nos: 837-2934 or 837-3164; Direct Line:839-1839; DOST Trunk Line: 837-2071-82 local 2296 or 2284; e-mail: or at; FNRI-DOST website: (FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service) [top]

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