Supernutrients Mean Super Health for Children

November 20, 1998

DALLAS - November 20, 1998 - Salmon, butternut squash, lean beef and spinach may not sound like any child's idea of the perfect meal. But as evidence mounts that four supernutrients --vitamin A, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid -- act as the foundation for a child's good health, concerned parents should consider new ways to make these foods and others like them appetizing, said Dr. Robert Squires Jr., associate professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Vitamin-A deficiency is implicated in measles mortality; iron deficiency is associated with a loss of developmental skills; omega-3 deficiency has been blamed for decreased visual acuity; and folic-acid deficiency in pregnant women can cause neural-tube, or brain and spinal, defects, said Squires, who sees patients in the gastroenterology clinic at Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

When mothers of the 1930s spooned out cod-liver oil as a cure-all, they weren't ignorant victims of old wives' tales. The foul-tasting elixir is rich in vitamin A, which plays a large role in maintaining mucous membranes and protecting the body against infection, Squires said.

"Vitamin-A deficiency has a proven role in measles mortality. The measles virus affects the lung tissue, so when children die from measles, they die from respiratory failure," the pediatrician said. Recurrent studies have shown that a child can be iron deficient without being anemic and still exhibit such negative consequences as subpar motor skills, low IQ and low athletic endurance, Squires said.

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish and green vegetables. The metabolic byproduct of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is an important component in the brain and in retinal proteins.

"Infants fed formula deficient in omega-3 fatty acids have a measurable decrease in visual acuity," Squires said. "Visual acuity is enhanced when DHA is added to the formula."

He said breast milk, which contains DHA, is the best source for infants.

Many large-scale studies have shown that folic acid plays a significant role in prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, which occur when a segment of the spinal nerve cord grows outside the bony spiny column.

"There are certainly increased requirements of folic acid during fetal growth," Squires said. "In the 1990s, we have the option of preventing neural-tube defects. All women of child-bearing age should consume at least 0.4 milligrams of folic acid per day."

This year the Food and Drug Administration began requiring that all flour products, including pasta and bread, be enriched with folic acid. Some cereals are also fortified with folic acid.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Related Folic Acid Articles from Brightsurf:

Excess folic acid during pregnancy harms brain development of mice
A study of pregnant mice found high levels of folic acid were associated with significant changes in brain development of offspring.

Zinc, folic acid supplements fail to enhance male fertility
Zinc and folic acid, a pair of dietary supplements long touted as an effective treatment for male infertility, failed to improve pregnancy rates, sperm counts, and sperm potency in a new study conducted at University of Utah Health and other medical centers in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health.

Hypertensive patients may benefit from folic acid supplements
Hypertensive adults with low platelet count who took a combined daily pill of both enalapril and folic acid saw a 73 percent reduction in their risk of first stroke compared to patients who took only enalapril daily, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Formate prevents most folic acid-resistant neural tube defects in mice
A multi-institutional research team has developed a novel folic acid-resistant neural tube defect mouse model of the human condition by silencing the Slc25a32 gene, and, in most of the mutant mice, neural tube defects can be prevented by formate supplementation.

Folic acid late in pregnancy may increase childhood allergy risk
Research from the University of Adelaide suggests that taking folic acid in late pregnancy may increase the risk of allergies in children affected by growth restriction during pregnancy.

Folic acid may mitigate autism risk from pesticides
Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have shown that mothers who take recommended amounts of folic acid around conception might reduce their children's pesticide-related autism risk.

Psychological benefits for kids when mums keep taking folic acid
Taking folic acid supplements throughout pregnancy may improve psychological development in children.

Folic acid supplementation recommended for prevention of neural tube defects
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women who are planning or capable of pregnancy take a daily supplement containing 0.4 to 0.8 mg (400-800 μg) of folic acid.

Daily folic acid supplementation remains important for prevention of birth defects
Despite the mandatory addition of folic acid to enriched grain products in the United States, many women still do not consume adequate amounts of this important vitamin, according to an editorial written by Laura E.

Folic acid fortified food linked to decline in congenital heart defects
Food fortified with folic acid helped lower overall rates of congenital heart defects in Canada.

Read More: Folic Acid News and Folic Acid Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to