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Folate intakes and knowledge of women of childbearing age : the status in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia French, Melissa Robin

Abstract

Women capable of becoming pregnant are encouraged to increase their folate intake to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. This cross-sectional study estimated folate intake and knowledge in a sample of 148 women of childbearing age (18-45 years) living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to determine folate knowledge and folate intake was assessed by a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Folic acid fortification of bread and grain products increased folate intake by 104 + 68 ug synthetic folic acid (SFA)/day from 296 + 153 ug Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFEVday to 470 + 200 ug (DFE)/day (p < 0.001). Supplements contributed an average of 205 ± 388 ug SFA/day. Mean daily folate intake from food folate, fortified foods and supplementation was 812 + 710 ug DFE/day. Even though 85.7% of women were meeting the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR; 320 ug DFE/day) for folate, only 25.7% were meeting the recommendation (400 ug SFA/day) for women capable of becoming pregnant. Most women (94.6%) had heard of folate but only 25% were aware that folate can prevent birth defects. One quarter of women had good or very good knowledge of foods containing folate. The most common sources of information on folate were magazines/newspapers, doctors and television/radio. A lack of awareness of the importance of folic acid was the most common reason for choosing not to use folic acid supplements before pregnancy. Seventy-eight percent of women indicated that, with knowledge of the benefits of folic acid, they would be willing to take a supplement containing folic acid daily to reduce the risk of birth abnormalities. Strategies are required to increase folate intake among women and to promote the benefits of periconceptional folic acid supplementation.

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