Why we tell women to take them for life
At this point you may be skeptical about the many claimed benefits of multivitamins. There are just so many studies out there with so much conflicting information. And the truth is that eating a healthy, varied diet is the best way to obtain vitamins and essential minerals. Folic acid is exceptional, as it is absorbed better in its synthetic form than in food. This is the only nutrient for which this appears to be true.
However, in this fast-paced society, few people take the time to balance their diets properly. Indicators for poor nutrition are low socioeconomic status, cigarette smoking, race/ethnicity and obesity. With so many fast food restaurants, processed packaged food and eating on the run, there is often a lack of nutrient-rich foods in the diet of most Americans. That’s where multivitamins come in handy.
There are several reasons why multivitamins containing 100 percent of the RDA of folic acid can be one of the easiest ways to prevent NTDs. First, research has found that women are resistant to taking folic acid supplements alone, particularly those who are not planning a pregnancy. We also know that folate found in foods is not absorbed as well as the synthetic form: folic acid. And, finally, according to the recent report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, even with the mandate from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add folic acid to cereal grain products, most women do not get the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid from their diets alone.
Unfortunately, the consumption of multivitamins hasn’t changed very much during the past decades. Most recently, the March of Dimes Gallup Poll indicated that in 2005 only 33 percent of women ages 18-45 reported taking a multivitamin with folic acid every day. This percentage is similar to that reported from 1995 to 2003, but is a decline from 40 percent in 2004. We now find an opportunity to encourage behavior change among women in their childbearing years.