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Folic acid supplement doesn't prevent gestational hypertension, preeclampsia

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By Jimmy Downs

Saturday March 9, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- Some research shows that use of folic acid containing multivitamins is associated with reduced risk of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia.  But a new study in Hypertension suggests that the risk reduction has nothing to do with folic acid.

Rongwei Ye from Peking University Health Science Center in Beijing, China and colleagues conducted the study and found folic acid supplementation alone in early pregnancy does not reduce the risk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.  It may actually increase the risk.

The study was based on data from a large Chinese population-based cohort study of 193,554 women from two southern provinces, which was intended to examine the effectiveness of folic acid supplementation on the risk of neural tube defects.  Participants were free of chronic hypertension or diabetes mellitusbefore 20-week gestation.

The study found that folic acid supplementation was associated with 8 percent increased risk for gestational hypertension and 11 percent increased risk for preeclampsia.  

The researchers concluded " Our findings suggest that daily consumption of 400 μg folic acid alone during early pregnancy cannot prevent the occurrence of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia."

Folic acid has been believed to reduce birth defects, which is the reason for the universal fortification of this vitamin in certain food ingredients such as wheat flour in some countries.   But an increasing body of evidence suggests that folic acid supplementation or fortification may do more harm than good in women who are not expected to get pregnant.

Folic acid is high in vegetables.    Pregnant women should eat a nutritionally balanced diet and not count on dietary supplements for their nutritional needs.  Many dietary supplements are full of toxic food additives such as nanoparticles and artificial colorants.  

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