AMERICANS UNAWARE OF ONE SIMPLE PREVENTATIVE MEASURE FOR LOWERING RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS: FOLIC ACID
Grain Foods Foundation and Spina Bifida Association Team Up to Share Folic Acid Awareness This January
JANUARY 1, 2015 — Washington, D.C. – Each year, more than four million women in America give birth and 2,600 infants are born with neural tube defects.1 While consuming folic acid is a key measure women can take to prevent these birth defects, an October 2014 Grain Foods Foundation survey, conducted online on their behalf by Harris Poll among over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18+, uncovered just how much Americans know about preventing birth defects. According to the findings, less than two in five (38 percent) Americans are aware of the positive benefits folic acid provides in preventing birth defects. With the common goal to advance the public’s understanding of the important role that folic acid-rich food, like white bread, can play in birth defects prevention, Grain Foods Foundation has partnered with the Spina Bifida Association (SBA) for the third year running to share educational tools with consumers throughout the month of January, National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
Since 1998, there has been a 36 percent decline in cases of neural tube defects among Americans as a result of the required fortification of enriched grains.2Given its impact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named folic acid fortification as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the first decade of the 21st century. In fact, if all women consumed the recommended amount of folic acid, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects could be prevented.3 Despite the implications for preventing birth defects, the Grain Foods Foundations survey found that only one in four Americans (27 percent) actually take folic acid into consideration when it comes to making choices about what they eat.
The Grain Foods Foundation survey also found that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans agree that it is important for those who are considering having a child to increase their intake of folic acid. Still, only two in five Americans (38 percent) cite being aware of this nutrient’s positive role in helping prevent birth defects. In addition, 40 percent of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, a trend that has remained constant for the past four decades, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Among the findings, the survey uncovered that almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans understand the importance of increasing folic acid consumption to those who are considering having a child. While only 18 percent of American women cite having a healthy baby as being a concern for them now, almost half of pregnancies are unplanned, so it is important for all women of childbearing age to take the necessary precautions. Also, folic acid is needed for spinal cord development in the first three weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant.4
“All women of reproductive age need to follow a healthy lifestyle, whether or not they’re planning to have a baby,” explains Dr. Bruce Young, a leader in obstetrics and gynecology and Grain Foods Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member. “It is important that women, even at an early age, become vigilant about having folic acid in their diets. Most of our folic acid and B vitamins actually come from enriched grains in our diet, so foods like bread, crackers, pastas and other fortified foods made from enriched white flour are great sources of folic acid.”
To help generate awareness for the role enriched grain foods can play in preventing birth defects, the Grain Foods Foundation is continuing its public service announcement, “Bread Trail,” which will air on local broadcast stations and on YouTube: http://youtu.be/2kxT67TDP5g. To generate further awareness and understanding among consumers, Grain Foods Foundation will share social messages throughout the month of January highlighting measures for lowering risks of birth defects using the hashtag #HealthyBaby.
“All women of childbearing age should be aware of the important role folic acid plays in preventing birth defects like Spina Bifida,” said Sara Struwe, President and CEO of the Spina Bifida Association. “Through the continued partnership with Grain Foods Foundation, we look forward to extending our message of prevention on a broader scale.”
For health expert information on how folic acid helps with neural tube defects and tips for including more wholesome bread and grain foods in a healthful diet, visit the Grain Foods Foundation’s website, www.grainfoodsfoundation.org.
ABOUT THE GRAIN FOODS FOUNDATION
The Grain Foods Foundation, a joint venture of members of the milling, baking and allied industries formed in 2004, is dedicated to advancing public understanding of the beneficial role grain-based foods play in the human diet. Directed by a board of trustees, funding for the Foundation is provided by voluntary donations from public and private grain-based food companies and is supplemented by industry associations. For more information, visit www.grainfoodsfoundation.org.
This survey was conducted online within the United States between October 17 and 21, 2014, among 2,066 adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Poll on behalf of Grain Foods Foundation via its QuickQuery omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error, which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, the words “margin of error” are avoided, as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.