A word from Curtis Chan


Good evening San Francisco!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy the perks of folic acid awareness week.  This week was just the beginning of a new year, a year where awareness and action will be the driving force taking control of our very own health!

Today’s blog comes to us from the fabulous Curtis Chan, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Maternal, Adolescent & Child Health in SF.  Let’s here what he has to say….

  1. Importance of Folate
  • Vitamin B9, also called folic acid or folate is found naturally in some foods, including leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, salmon, and whole grains.   However, most women do not eat enough of these foods to provide the optimal health benefit of folic acid.
  • B9 is an essential nutrient for amino acid synthesis and DNA replication.  Hence, it’s particularly important during the critical first 8 weeks of pregnancy, during the critical window of early brain and spinal cord development of the fetus.
  • Compelling research showing that folic acid drastically prevented neural tube defects caused the US Preventive Services Taskforce and the National Academy of Sciences (1996) to recommend daily consumption of 400 mcg of folic acid.
  1. Study Findings
  • In July 2014, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the main professional organization for OB-GYN physicians, published in its highly reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, a research article from Harvard Medical School, “Maternal pre-pregnancy folate intake and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth.”
  • The study showed that the risk of miscarriage (or spontaneous abortions) was 20% lower among women taking high amounts of folate acid (730 ug/d) compared to those with the lowest intake (0 ug/d).
  • Since 1992, public health and medical authorities have recommended that all women U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all women capable of becoming pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent neural tube defects.  While many women aren’t familiar with the brain and spinal cord deformities of neural tube defects, research has since shown other health benefits of folic acid to the mother and infant.
  • The significant risk reduction in miscarriage is another important reminder about the benefits of women taking folic acid vitamins as part of their daily routine, before becoming pregnant.

Curtis Chan, MD, MPH

Medical Director of Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health

San Francisco Department of Public Health

30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 260b, SF, CA 94102

Foodie Tuesday is almost here!


Foodie Tuesday has returned! …Except we’re a day late…so we would like to introduce Foodie Wednesday this week!

Fall is here, but not for much longer. In nearly one month winter will have set in, and unhealthy eating & laziness will also be setting in… NOT! Wait a minute……. Just because the months of notorious unhealthy eating are creeping up on us doesn’t mean we have to let all of our hard work with our bodies go to waste. Beginning this coming Tuesday, November 25, we will provide you with yummy recipes for eating healthy throughout the cold months to come.

We wanted to warm you up this week with an overview of some of the fresh, rich in folate, produce our beautiful state of California provides us, in the fall and winter months.  california-dreaming-panoAnd to the rest of the world outside of California, all of these foods still apply to you (but you may have to be a little more creative)!

FYI: We will be using the words folic acid and folate interchangeably, like we explained two weeks ago, folic acid and folate are essentially the same, the difference is how the body recognizes it.

Dark Leafy Greens
-Spinach- 1cup= 263 mcg of folate
-Collard Greens- 1cup= 177mcg of folate
-Romaine Lettuce- 1cupe= 76 mcg of folate
Broccoli– 1cup= 24% of daily folic acid recommendation
Citrus Fruits
-Papaya- 1 papaya= 115mcg of folate
-Oranges- 1 orange= 40mcg of folate
-Grapefruit- 1 grapefruit= 30mcg of folate
Brussels Sprouts– 1cup= 25% of daily folic acid recommendation
Cauliflower– 1cup= 55mcg of folate and approx. 14% of daily folic acid recommendation
Beets– 1cup= 76mcg of folate and approx. 20% of daily folic acid recommendation
Celery– 1cup= 34mcg of folate and approx. 8% of daily folic acid recommendation
Winter Squash– 1cup= 57mcg of folate and approx. 14% of daily folic acid recommendation.

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Now that we are all aware of some of the folate rich produce available in the fall and winter months, we can let the information marinate until Tuesday. Make sure to stay tuned and bring your appetite next week!

Until next time, keep folicin’ San Francisco.

Hi again…!


Hi again everyone! It’s been a while since we’ve last posted, so we decided to start to get back on track. First things first, a warm welcome to all of our new followers and an even warmer hello to our dedicated previous followers. Go Folic! Get Healthy is a nutritional project we have created here in San Francisco. We are all about YOU! Our primary focus is ensuring every female of child-bearing age gets the proper amount of folic acid (according to the NIH an average of 400mcg). Go Folic! Get Healthy is so committed to making sure every female in SF can get adequate folic acid we provide FREE VITAMINS!! Currently you can come to 30 Van Ness, suit 210 during business hours (Monday – Thursday, 1pm-4pm) and we will give you a free bottle of multivitamins.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5, 2014- January 11, 2014 and during that week we will have so many great activities going on in the community, but most importantly that will be the start of your local community clinics distributing multivitamins. Way more convenient, right?!

WHAT IS IT REALLY? What is folic acid?? Folic acid is water-soluble B vitamin, which is important for women to get before, during, and after pregnancy. Folic Acid helps produce DNA and form healthy new cells. The process of creating new healthy cells is inevitably important to a developing fetus.

WHY? Why, you ask. 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned! WHAT THE FOLIC?? So all you women out there who are not planning on having a baby anytime soon and women who are…. Listen up…. Folic Acid is VERY important in helping reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are defects in the brain or spine of the developing fetus, which ultimately lead to various problems when the baby is born.

So now that we know why us ladies should take folic acid if we get pregnant, let’s talk about the other reasons we want to take folic acid. How many times have you looked in the mirror and wondered when is your hair finally going to grow out of the, not-so-hot-haircut-anymore? Well ladies, fortunately the answer has been right in front of us. Yes, you guessed correctly, the answer is folic acid. Folic acid has shown to increase the rate of hair and nail growth. And speaking from first hand experience here at Go Folic! Get Healthy, we have experienced it ourselves!

So let’s recap… to help prevent any neural tube defects from happening, as well as to expedite your hair & nail growth, a daily multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid, as well as eating folate rich foods help reduce your chances (or grow longer hair)! You can find folate (the form of folic acid once it gets broken down in the body) in food such as dark green vegetables, beans, and fortified cereals. In addition, a few fruits such as, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, oranges and grapefruit juice also are rich in folate.

Well ladies and gent’s (those of you wise guys who want to ensure their girlfriend, wife, sister, cousin, etc. stay healthy) it’s been a pleasure… This is just the start of many more blogs to come. As we continue to blog we will get more in depth of the specifics of folic acid. If there are any specific questions on folic acid please comment and let us know. Also, if there are any topics in particular you want to know more about, we can also take request for blog topicsJ

Until next time, keep folicin’ San Francisco.

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Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News


This week’s stories include vitamin news, conception timing, new resources on HPV, as well as new tools for doing health promotion online.  Read on!

conceiving in the month of may, if you live in the northern hemisphere, may increase your risk of having a premie - one possible reason to get a flu shot before you get pregnantGetting Pregnant in May Might Raise Odds of Premature Birth Due to Flu Exposure, Another Reason to Get a Flu Shot!

Giving birth prematurely (early) can have many repercussions for a baby’s health, including breathing, heart and brain problems. A new study found that children conceived during the month of May faced a 10% greater risk for premature birth compared to babies conceived at other times of the year.  Researchers believe that the reason could be that expectant mothers are more likely to be exposed to the flu close to the time they are about to give birth, another reason to get a flu shot if you are thinking about getting pregnant.  Click here to read more.

What is HPV?  New Information Page from the CDC

Genital human  papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted  infection (STI). There are more than 40 types of HPV. HPV can cause serious  health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers. Click here to see the CDC’s newly updated information page about HPV.

new research from uc berkeley looks at sunshine, vitamin d and bone strength and qualityVitamin D and Bone Health

We build our bones when we’re young (up to age 26). Then, as we get older, they get weaker and more fragile. Now a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley has shown that this bone-aging process can be significantly accelerated through deficiency of vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin. Click here to learn more.

AIDS.gov has a newly updated social media toolkit pageNew Media Toolkit for Health Promotion

As a part of its technical assistance and training efforts, AIDS.gov provides resources on how to use new media. These tools aren’t just for those working in the field of AIDS/HIV prevention – they are valuable for anyone working to promote health.  The agency recently updated its “New Media Tools” webpage to make it easier to locate and use these resources.  For more, see this post on the AIDS.gov blog.

In Case You Missed It! Monday’s Weekly News Round-Up


In case you missed them, here are some of the major news stories that came out regarding nutrition, vitamins and women’s health last week. We decided moved our weekly news round-up from Saturday to Monday in order to reach more people and include breaking news that comes in over the weekend.

If you’re caught in the BART strike, but on some other form of public transit, this might be the perfect way to catch up!  In the news this past week, PTSD, Hep C, battling gender violence world-wide, and some helpful new health resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Is someone you love a baby boomer?  Tell them to get tested for Hep C!

Baby boomers are more likely to get infected with Hep C!Hep C is a very serious form of hepititis; as the most common chronic bloodborne pathogen in the United States it is a leading cause of complications from chronic liver disease. Last week the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) expanded 2004 CDC recommendations for HCV screening in persons at high risk for infection by including so including one-time screening for adults born between 1945 and 1965. The goal is to reduce confusion among healthcare providers, increase awareness of the importance of hepatitis C screening and improve testing rates—ultimately identifying millions of Americans previously unaware of their infection status and preventing the associated liver disease and deaths attributable to undiagnosed chronic HCV infection.  To learn more:

  1. Read the AIDS.gov blog post;
  2. Click here to download the full recommendations.

1 in 3 Women Worldwide Experiences Partner Abuse

Eve Ensler and Christine Schuler Deschryver interviewed by Amy Goodman

A new World Health Organization Report highlights violence against women as a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.” The report represents the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women – experienced by 35% of all women worldwide, with intimate partner violence being the most common type, affecting 30% of all women.  Impacts range from broken bones to lower birthweight babies, pregnancy-related complications, depression, impaired social functioning and higher STD rates. The report also includes a review of how health professionals can respond to the problem.  To learn more:

  1. Visit the World Health Organization to read the press release and to download the report, as well as related documents;
  2. Click here to watch Amy Goodman’s interview of Eve Ensler and Congolese Activist, Christine Deschryver to learn about the City of Joy, a revolutionary community for women survivors of gender violence in Bukavu (written transcript also available);
  3. If you life in San Francisco, and either are experiencing intimate partner violence yourself, or have a friend or loved one who is, LEAP (Look to End Abuse Permanently) can help.  LEAP is an organization of healthcare providers and volunteers dedicated to ending intimate partner violence and family violence by establishing screening, treatment, and prevention programs in the health care setting. http://www.leapsf.org/

New HHS Tools

Person using a tablet to surf the InternetThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released two new tools this week:

  1. The new HealthCare.gov website will help uninsured Americans to select and sign up for health care coverage that best meets their needs.  Open enrollment begins  October 1. For Spanish speaking consumers, CuidadoDeSalud.gov will also be updated to match HealthCare.gov’s new consumer focus.  Both sites are designed to be viewed on smart phones, as well as computers and tablets.  If you live in California, Covered California (http://www.coveredca.com/) provides the same services in English, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
  2. The myfamily smart phone app allows you to set and customize health alerts and reminders so that you can better manage the health of your family.  It also allows you to keep track of past medical check-ups and vaccinations and to access health information available on healthfinder.gov.  To learn more, go to http://www.healthfinder.gov/stayconnected/.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on PTSD Awareness Month

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can occur when people experience a traumatic event.  PTSD can affect anyone – from service men and women returning from the horrors of war to abused children and the survivors of rape, domestic violence, or natural disasters. June was PTSD Awareness Month.  Secretary Sebelius issued a special statement highlighting the month “as an important opportunity to recognize and pledge ourselves to year-round support for the millions of Americans who are working to overcome this challenging and debilitating condition.”  Click here to read the full statement.

Folic Acid, the Men’s Vitamin? Folic Facts for Father’s Day


fathers-day-wallpapers-pictures

“Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.” ~ Congressman Bill Richardson (Congressional Record, H3905-H3906, May 24, 1994)

If you thought that folic acid was only for women, think again!  Folic acid is a B Vitamin that plays a crucial role in healthy cell division.  It is essential for the formation of DNA – the blueprint at the heart of every one of our cells, which makes it as important for men as it is for women.  This is why we decided to focus our Men’s Health Week (June 10-17) and Father’s Day post on how folic acid and folate (the form found in foods) benefit men.

Folic Acid & Sperm – Facts for Future Fathers

healthy spermFolic acid is as important for future fathers as it is for moms to be.  Fertility experts have known for a long time that a poor diet can impair both sperm count and motility (how well the sperm move, which is crucial for fertilizing an egg).  A 2002 controlled study in the Netherlands published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility, found that supplementing the diet with folic acid and zinc could significantly increase the quantity and quality of sperm in men who were having trouble getting their partner pregnant.

The first study to look at the effects of a father’s diet on genetic abnormalities found that men who ate high levels of folate—more than 700 micrograms (mcg) per day—had up to 30% fewer sperm with extra or missing chromosomes.  According to Suzanne Young, M.P.H., a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, and coordinator of the study, “These abnormalities would cause either miscarriages or children with genetic problems if the sperm fertilized an egg.”  The study also found that the more folate a man got, the lower the levels of the defect.

Folate and Heart Health

I love my heartHeart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States.  In 2009 it was responsible for killing 307,225 men – or 1 in every 4 male deaths (see this CDC fact sheet to learn more). Getting enough folate and other B vitamins (especially B-6 and B-12) supports heart health.  They do this by reducing levels of homocysteine, an amino acid found in the blood. Too much homocysteine is related to a higher risk of:

  • Heart disease;
  • Stroke;
  • Peripheral vascular disease (fatty deposits in peripheral arteries).

Both genetics and diet affect homocysteine levels. Folic acid and other B vitamins (especially B-6 and B-12) help break down homocysteine in the body. So far, no study has proved that folic acid supplements reduce the risk of heart disease and researchers are trying to find out how much folic acid, B-6 and/or B-12 are needed to lower homocysteine levels. However, the American Heart Association recommends that people at risk for heart disease get enough folic acid and vitamins B-6 and B-12 in their diet (read on to find out how).

Other Potential Benefits

There is ongoing research on folic acid and its impact on a number of health conditions and diseases. While many of these studies are still preliminary, they suggest that adequate folate / folic acid may play a major role in reducing the risk for developing depression, certain forms of cancer, hearing loss, and Alzheimer’, among others.

How much folic acid do men need?

Since folate and folic acid aren’t stored in the body, it’s important to get at least the recommended amount of between 400-800 mcg everyday.  While it’s impossible to overdose on folic acid, getting more than 1000 mcg daily isn’t recommended, as doing so can mask a Vitamin-12 deficiency, a condition that can lead to neurological damage.  In fact, supplements of 1000 mcg of folic acid are only available by prescription.

How do I get enough folic acid?

cereal with strawberries - high in folate and folic acidMost experts recommend eating a diet that is high in folate, as well as taking a daily multi-vitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid.  Since the body can only absorb 50% of the folate that we get from foods, taking a supplement with both folate and other B-vitamins will ensure that you are meeting your daily needs.  If you dislike taking pills, try eating a bowl of breakfast cereal that is fortified with 400 mcg of folic acid instead; we absorb 85% of the folic acid in fortified foods. Click here for a list of cereals that have the recommended amount from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What about food sources?

food with folic acidFoods that are Many foods are naturally high in folic acid, with beans, liver and leafy greens like spinach containing the highest amounts.  Click here for a list of the “folate top 10.” For a more extended list of folate-rich foods, check this food chart from the USDA. Want to know how to cook all of these great foods?  Browse our list of folate-full recipes, or download a copy of one of our recipe brochures: Easy Snacks (English) | Soulful Recipes (English) | Spanish | Chinese.

#HAWMC Day 2 Challenge: Who We Are & Why We Write


food with folic acidToday, we’re combining two prompts into one.  We’re introducing ourselves, why we are so passionate about folic acid and women’s nutrition, and why we decided to get involved in Health Activist Writers Month Challenge.

Who Are We?

Go Folic! is a program of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section.  Our project is dedicated to improving the health of teen and adult women by encouraging them to adopt a diet that is rich in folic acid and other vital nutrients.  Because it is difficult for our bodies to absorb all of the folic acid we need from food, Go Folic! also encourages women to supplement their diets with a daily multi-vitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid.

Former Staff Member, Christina Ibarra, at the 2010 Washington High School Freshman Parent/Student Day

Former Staff Member, Christina Ibarra, at the 2010 Washington High School Freshman Parent/Student Day

Among our many activities, we provide teen and adult women who live in San Francisco with free vitamins.  While daily multivitamins are relatively inexpensive, many of our health department clinic clients are students or workers living on minimum wage.  As San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world, supplements would otherwise be unaffordable for many of the women we serve.

Why Do We Write?

Over the years, our staff has included women of various ages and ethnicities, including interns.  All of us have contributed to the Go Folic! blog at one point or another.  Right now, due to budget cutbacks, the blog is maintained by only two of us – the project coordinator, Shivaun Nestor, and intern Janis Rice (more on a personal note from both of us later this month). We write to encourage young women to grow up strong, confident, and healthy.  We write to support women in deciding when and how many children to have.  We write to support women in their ability to have healthy children.

Why We’re Passionate about Folic Acid

Yea!  My mom went folic!Our bodies make millions of new cells everyday.  Folic Acid, or Vitamin B-9, works with other B-vitamins to ensure that when our cells divide and grow, they do so in a healthy way.  This means that folic acid is important for everything from our hair, skin, and nails (why we call it the “beauty vitamin) to our hearts, our brains, our nervous systems and our bodies’ ability to handle stress. Since it is water soluble, we need to replenish our supply of folic acid on a daily basis.

Folic acid is extremely important during times of rapid growth, for instance, during puberty. During puberty, folic acid helps a girl’s body mature; studies have found that teen women who get adequate folic acid not only get better grades in school, but that they will have healthier children when they become adults.

Folic acid is especially important several months before a woman gets pregnant, as well as during the first few weeks after an egg is fertilized.  This is because a future baby’s spine is formed during the first few weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant.  Taking a daily multivitamin with folic acid at least 3 months before pregnancy will reduce a woman’s risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, a serious malformation of the brain or spine, by 70%.  It may also reduce the risk of premature birth, cleft palate, heart problems and other defects, including autism and developmental delays (see today’s second post on World Autism Awareness Day.)

Remember

A Healthy Woman = A Healthy Family = A Healthy Community!  So go folic!