Can Too Much Folic Acid Be Bad?

We already know about the benefits of getting enough folic acid during pregnancy. In fact, according to new data published last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fortifying grain foods has saved about 1,300 babies from being born with birth defects each year!

But does a new study now show that too much of the good stuff can actually be bad?

The new research, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, suggests that mamas who take excessive doses while they are expecting may put their daughters at risk for diabetes and obesity later in life.

In the study, researchers gave 20 times the recommended dose of folic acid to rats during mating, pregnancy, and lactation. Those animals gave birth to babies who grew up to be overweight and insulin resistant, as well as deficient in a hormone that protects them against diabetes and obesity. The findings were more pronounced in female offspring.

But let's take a step back for a sec. To repeat, the study involved animals, not humans, first of all. And second of all, remember that researchers gave rats a full 20 times their recommended dose—so that's a huge amount.

"This study is in rats and should not deter women from taking folic acid when they are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant," says Edward McCabe, M.D., the March of Dimes' Chief Medical Officer. "We know that folic acid taken in the appropriate dose helps to prevent developmental problems in the nervous system, like spina bifida. This has not been shown to cause health problems for the mother or her offspring."

Megan Edhardt, the communications and media relations manager for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is quick to cite the group's own firm guidelines for folic acid, which specify taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for at least one month before pregnancy, and 600 micrograms daily during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

So however you read this study, don't freak out. And keep taking your vitamins!

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Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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