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Prenatal nutrition

Prenatal vitamins shown to reduce children's risk of cancer

Friday, November 02, 2007 by: M.T. Whitney
Tags: prenatal nutrition, folic acid, health news


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(NewsTarget) Taking folic acid and multivitamins while pregnant can nearly halve the chance of a child getting a common cancer before the age of 18, new evidence from a Toronto children's hospital shows. The study, from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, was spurred when officials at the hospital noticed a drop in neuroblastomas five years ago, after the Canadian government started requiring flour manufacturers to add folic acid to their product in 1998.

What you need to know

• Folic acid and multivitamins were shown to lower the chance of leukemia in children by 39 percent.

• The same one-two punch can lower the risk of a child developing a brain tumor by 27 percent.

• The risk of a child getting a neuroblastoma, which attacks the nervous system, was lowered by 49 percent.

• For spina bifida, a spinal condition, the risk is lowered by 80 percent with folic acid supplements.

• Most folic acid supplements, easily found for just pennies a day, will give you between 600 and 1,000 milligrams for the day, more than the government-recommended 400 milligrams.

• Only 40 percent of Canadian mothers take the right amount of folic acid supplements during pregnancy, Dr. Gideon Koren, the study's principal investigator, told The Toronto Star.

• The study was published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (February, 2007).

• "To our amazement and surprise, all available studies today from different parts of the world ... showed a similar trend (to the one in Ontario)," Koren told the Toronto Star.

Sadly, most doctors and hospitals still don't teach nutrition to patients, and expectant mothers are rarely told about the multitude of health benefits derived from nutrients like folic acid or vitamin D. The current message on folic acid supplementation focuses solely on spina bifida and fails to mention the vitamin's anti-cancer effects.

Bottom line

• Mothers who take folic acid and prenatal vitamins may reduce risk of cancer in their children.

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