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Women May Need More Folate / March 20, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Adding folate to applesauce

Women May Need More Folate

By Marcia Wood
March 20, 1998

Imagine eating triple-boiled green beans, carrots, chicken, turkey or ham at lunch or dinner for weeks in a row. Now be thankful you don't have to: 10 dedicated women already took the challenge--for the cause of science.

The women volunteered in a 12-week study by the Agricultural Research Service in San Francisco. It yielded new information about women's need for folate, an essential B vitamin. The findings add to other evidence that the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance of folate for women, 180 micrograms a day, may need to be increased.

The experiment monitored several folate-linked indicators of good health. These include white blood cell makeup, DNA formation and regulation of an amino acid. The amino acid, homocysteine, can accumulate to unhealthful levels in people who do not eat enough folate.

Among the study's results: For two weeks after their low-folate diet ended, half the women still had high homocysteine levels, even though they received 160 percent of the RDA for those two weeks.

Triple-boiling key foods knocked out about half of the folate. That allowed scientists to monitor the effects of a low-folate regimen on the volunteers. Research chemist Robert A. Jacob led the experiment at ARS' Western Human Nutrition Research Center in San Francisco.

Orange juice, liver, eggs, dark-green leafy vegetables, peas and beans, and nuts and seeds are good sources of folate. The vitamin is especially important to women of child-bearing age. It may help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires makers of enriched bread, flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta and other grain products to fortify these foods with folate.

The ARS study provides additional data that experts who set the nationally recommended levels can use in re-examining the standards. An article in the March issue of the agency's Agricultural Research magazine tells more. The article can be seen on the World Wide Web at:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar98/fola0398.htm

Scientific contact: Robert A. Jacob, research chemist, USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, P.O. Box 29997, Presidio of San Francisco, CA 94129. Phone: (415) 556-3531, Fax (415) 556-1432, e-mail rjacob@whnrc.usda.gov.

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