On Tuesday, January 10th, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended pregnant women and those who are planning on having a baby to start taking anywhere between 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid. According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the supplements can be taken in the form of prenatal vitamins on a daily basis to protect against neural tube affections such as bifida and anencephaly.
However, researchers have disputed the claims, saying the supplements are packed with multiple other compounds that do not contribute to the successful outcome of a delivery. The study on folic acid’s efficacy was conducted last year and published in the British Medical Journal’s Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.
As it turns out, only vitamin D and folic acid have a positive impact as dietary supplements on a pregnancy, according to the editor-in-chief of the bulletin and also a practitioner at the Berkshire’s Downland Practice in Newbury, Dr. James Cave.
While vitamin deficiencies are expected in mothers-to-be, there was no evidence to support that compounds other than vitamin D and folic acid help in some way. The study, however, was focused on British expectant mothers, which fueled some controversies.
American researchers argue that the needs of U.S. mothers differ from those of their English peers. Nevertheless, both teams of researchers agreed that a proper diet could efficiently address vitamin deficiencies without the use of supplements.
Since vitamin supplements are seen as rather expensive in the United Kingdom, costing as much as $16.64 per month, Dr. Cave encourages expecting mothers to take only the minimum required, meaning folic acid and vitamin D. However, if they have specific concerns about a mineral or vitamin deficiency, he encourages the mothers-to-be to consult with their healthcare provider or pharmacist.
At this point, physicians have opposing views on the importance of supplement. However, most of them agree that seafood is particularly beneficial to both a mother’s health as well as her child’s. Even though many were scared about the levels of mercury in seafood, Dr. Scott Sullivan, associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, points out to the small amount of mercury available in seafood. Moreover, conclusive evidence that showed children of women who regularly ate seafood during gestation had better performance on motor and cognitive tests supports his claims.
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