Most women know by now that folate, an essential B vitamin, reduces the fetus’ risk for neural tube defects, malformations affecting the brain, spine and spinal cord. Now, new research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, finds another potential benefit: Proper maternal folate levels during pregnancy may protect children from a future risk of obesity, especially those born to obese mothers.
Researchers, funded by the National Institutes of Health, analyzed health records from more than 1,500 mother-child pairs, including information that was collected before, during and after pregnancy. Researchers measured the moms’ folate levels from stored plasma samples that were collected two to three days after delivery. They found that the lowest levels of folate correlated with the highest risk of child obesity.
“Folate is well-known for preventing brain and spinal cord defects in a developing fetus, but its effects on metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and obesity, is less understood,” said Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., NICHD senior investigator and a study co-author. “This study uncovers what may be an additional benefit of folate and identifies a possible strategy for reducing childhood obesity.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to reduce their children’s risk for neural tube defects.
Approximately 15 to 20 percent of married couples in the United States will experience some degree of infertility. Male infertility affects up to 40 percent of those couples, and an additional 20 percent of them have combined male-female factor infertility.
The most important goal in male infertility is to establish the correct diagnosis. In our latest podcast, physician assistant Hina Ahmed explains the treatment options for male infertility available at The Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey.
To view the podcast, click here.
Yes, definitely—despite what you may have heard about a recent report claiming that fortifying cereals, grains and flour with folic acid was not as protective against the risk of certain birth defects, including spina bifida, as experts thought it would be.
Investigators from Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed 1.3 million births across eight central California counties over two decades. They found that that risk had already started to decline before fortification was mandated in 1997, and that downward trend actually slowed after fortification. The study was published in the journal Birth Defects Research Part A.
Study co-author Gary Shaw, associate chair of clinical research at Stanford’s department of pediatrics, said a number of unexamined factors might have played a role in the trend, including a notable rise in maternal obesity. “And we now have to wonder if folic acid is the whole answer,” he said.
“What we do know, however, is that this is not a message to women that they should now do anything differently,” Shaw stressed. “I certainly do not want to convey that folic acid doesn’t work. We’re all very grateful that we found folic acid a while back. And it works.”
The CDC continues to recommend that women capable of becoming pregnant should take 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid daily, from fortified foods and/or supplements, and to consume foods with folate from a varied diet.
The best time to get your yearly flu shot is in the fall, but news this spring may help convince women trying to get pregnant to get immunized in October. A recent study found that a seasonal flu shot may reduce a pregnant woman’s risk of stillbirth.
Australian researchers examined nearly 58,000 births to mothers in the western part of the country during the 2012 and 2013 flu seasons. More than 5,000 births were to women who received a flu shot during pregnancy. Women who received the flu vaccine had a 51 percent lower risk of stillbirth than those who did not receive the vaccine, the study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, reported.
Everyone 6 months of age and older, including pregnant women during any trimester, should get an annual flu shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant women are at increased risk of serious flu-related complications, and having the flu during pregnancy has been linked to fetal death and premature birth.
It’s Men’s Health Month, but here’s a health tip that both men and women can benefit from: lower your daily salt intake.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that Americans consume almost 50 percent more sodium than what most experts recommend. One in three individuals has high blood pressure, which has been linked to diets high in sodium and is a major risk factor of heart disease and stroke. That number climbs to one in two African Americans and even includes one in 10 children aged 8-17. In some of studies, researchers have estimated that lowering U.S. sodium intake by about 40 percent over the next decade could save 500,000 lives and nearly $100 billion in healthcare costs.
Because the majority of sodium intake comes from processed and prepared foods, not the saltshaker, the FDA recently issued a call to the food industry to reduce the amounts of sodium in processed foods.
“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. Experts at the Institute of Medicine have concluded that reducing sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day can significantly help Americans reduce their blood pressure and ultimately prevent hundreds of thousands of premature illnesses and deaths.
Infertility risk posed by endometriosis may be half of previous estimates, as a majority of women with endometriosis do not experience infertility.
So claims a study published in the journal Human Reproduction. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston collected data from 58,427 women who are participants of the Nurses’ Health Study-2 to examine the relationship between endometriosis and infertility. Researchers found a higher risk of subsequent infertility in women with endometriosis, but only among women under age 35. According to the study’s analysis, the infertility risk posed by endometriosis is about half previous estimates and indicates a possible detection bias in earlier studies.
About 5 to 10 percent of the general female population is affected with endometriosis. The disease is commonly observed in women who are infertile, but it is unknown when endometriosis is the cause of infertility or an incidental discovery during the infertility examination.
“Although women with endometriosis are at greater risk for infertility compared to women without endometriosis, our study suggests that the majority of women with endometriosis do not experience infertility and the majority do become pregnant and are able to build the families that they desire,” said senior study author Stacey A. Missmer, director of Epidemiologic Research in Reproductive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“A key step in endometriosis discovery is identifying women with endometriosis who indeed are at higher risk of infertility so that treatments can be targeted directly to the biology causing infertility and identifying these women as early as possible so they can access fertility treatment,” Missmer said.
June is devoted to men—and we don’t just mean Father’s Day. Congress has designated June as Men’s Health Month. It’s a time to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
This month gives healthcare providers, public policy makers, the media and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury. The response has been overwhelming with thousands of awareness activities in the United States and around the globe.
We support Men’s Health Month, and we are asking you to use this toolkit to help spread the word on your social media platforms.
Many young female cancer survivors say they don’t receive enough information about preserving their fertility, a new study finds. These women are at risk for early menopause because of their cancer treatment. If they want to have children but are not yet ready to start a family, they may be able to freeze their eggs or embryos after treatment, researchers explained.
“The potential loss of fertility has been described in the literature as being almost as painful, if not more so, than the cancer diagnosis itself,” said study leader Catherine Benedict, of Northwell Health on Long Island.
In the study, the researchers analyzed the results from an anonymous online survey of 179 women, average age 30, who had completed cancer treatment an average of five years earlier. Up to 62 percent of the women said they had not received enough information about their fertility options, and two-thirds were worried about their ability to have children. Both concerns made it more difficult for women to think about whether to undergo fertility preservation in the future. Two-thirds of the women said they wanted more advice about preserving their fertility and one-third wanted more support in making the decision, according to the study published in the journal Cancer.
The findings highlight the need for better resources to help young adult female cancer survivors make informed choices about their future fertility, the researchers said.
“Failure to provide information and address concerns with respect to fertility-related decisions may have lasting consequences for young women who hope to move on from their cancer experience to achieve important life goals such as having children,” Benedict said in a journal news release.
You may be surprised to learn that there is arsenic in rice. The U.S. Food and Drug administration says that rice is not the only food or beverage that contains arsenic. It’s also found in vegetables, fruits, and many other foods. The FDA has been monitoring the presence of arsenic in food, including infant rice cereal.
Based on the FDA’s findings with respect to inorganic arsenic in rice, the agency offers the following advice to parents and caregivers of infants. It is consistent with advice given by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
• Feed your baby iron-fortified cereals to be sure she or he is receiving enough of this important nutrient.
• Rice cereal fortified with iron is a good source of nutrients for your baby, but it shouldn’t be the only source, and does not need to be the first source. Other fortified infant cereals include oat, barley and multigrain.
• For toddlers, provide a well-balanced diet, which includes a variety of grains.
Also based on the FDA’s findings, it would be prudent for pregnant women to consume a variety of foods, including varied grains (such as wheat, oats, and barley), for good nutrition.
Published studies, including research by the FDA, indicate that cooking rice in excess water (from six to 10 parts water to one part rice), and draining the excess water, can reduce from 40 to 60 percent of the inorganic arsenic content, depending on the type of rice, although this method may also remove some key nutrients.
To learn more, read the FDA’s Seven Things Pregnant Women and Parents Need to Know About Arsenic in Rice and Rice Cereal.