Nov. 15, 2016

New Research on the Importance of Folic Acid for Healthy Pregnancies

Health & Nutrition

Folic acid deficiency may lead to serious health problems for several generations based on a groundbreaking study led by Canadian and British researchers. 1

Folic acid, also known as folate (the form in foods), is a B vitamin vital for healthy pregnancies. A lack of folic acid in early pregnancy greatly increases the risk of having a baby with severe birth defects including spina bifida and heart defects.

Working together, researchers from the Universities of Calgary and Cambridge (UK) recently discovered that a mutation in a gene needed for folic acid metabolism, led to developmental abnormalities in several generations. While this study looked at genes in mice, the researchers believe that folic acid deficiency in the diet could have a similar multi-generational impact on health in humans.

The researchers were surprised by the long term effects seen in this study. The study showed that the detrimental effects of a genetic mutation in one generation may be passed down to as many as four or five future generations. In other words it suggests the great or great-great grandchildren of a parent who has a folic acid deficiency may have developmental disorders and health problems as a result.

While the aim of this study was to understand how a specific genetic mutation would affect folic acid metabolism, the findings indicate that a lack of dietary folic acid likely has even more far-reaching consequences than previously recognized.

Eggs are a good source of folate. Two large eggs (i.e. a Food Guide serving from the Meat and Alternatives group) provide 30% of the Daily Value for folate. Other food sources of folate include vegetables and fruit (especially green and orange), legumes, nuts, and grain products made with enriched wheat flour.

All women who could become pregnant are encouraged to eat well with Canada’s Food Guide and to take a multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid every day according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Learn more about Folate for good health at every age.

To read more about the research, visit: and

Valerie Johnson


Nutrition Wise Communications


1.  Padmanabhan N et al. Mutation in Folate Metabolism Causes Epigenetic Instability and Transgenerational Effects on Development. Cell, 2013; 155 (1): 81-93.