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

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.


This is important news for any woman who might become pregnant and it makes sense, since our bodies require B-12 to process folic acid. And it’s one more reason to Go Folic! with a multi-vitamin. The study that this recommendation is based on recommends that women supplement with at least 2.5 mcg of B-12 everyday. Go Folic! Multis, which San Francisco women can get for free from the health department contain 6 mcg. If you don’t live in San Francisco, any multivitamin with 100% of the RDA will have this amount.

Going Folic in 2013 – An Easy New Year’s Resolution to Keep!

Going Folic! in 2013 Cereal or Vitamins, it's an easy New Year's resolution to keep!

How many New Year’s resolutions have you made over the years? How many of these resolutions have you kept?  According to USA.gov, the top 10 most popular resolutions are (not in any particular order): drink less alcohol, get a better education, get a better job, get fit, lose weight, manage debt, manage stress, quit smoking, recycle more, save money, take a trip, volunteer. With the exception of losing weight (read an alternative view here)

Go Folic! staff members like, and have made, many of the above resolutions over the years – volunteering, taking a trip, quitting smoking, recycling more. That said, we know that while New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, they can be less easy to maintain.

We have one resolution that can be easy to keep- Go Folic! for 2013!

Going folic means getting the recommended daily requirement for folic acid – 400 mcg.  Doing so is easy!  Just take a daily multi-vitamin with the recommended amount.  We recommend a multi-vitamin instead of a folic acid supplement because this B-vitamin needs other B-vitamins to do it’s work (visit our folic facts web page to learn why folic acid is so important).

where are the october multis??But vitamins can be expensive…

If you are a woman between the ages of 14 – 54, and live in San Francisco, you can get free Go Folic! multis that contain the recommended RDA for all vitamins, including vitamins K and D.  Visit our website to find out how.

What if I don’t like taking pills?

Cereals that contain 100% (400 mcg) of the RDA for folic acidIt’s still easy!  Eat a bowl of fortified cereal with the recommended amount everyday (cereal doesn’t have to be just a breakfast food). The graphic at right shows some of the cereals that contain 100% of the RDA for folic acid (click the image to enlarge it).  Click here to get a more complete list of cereals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Note: while we have included sugary cereals in our graphic, we recommend eating the whole grain variety!

Why not get all I need from folate-rich foods?

Which is better?  Foods or vitamins?At Go Folic! we are all about “turbo-charging” your diet with folate-rich foods.  However, the truth is that it’s difficult to get enough folic acid from food alone, even if your diet is healthful.  This is because your body only absorbs 50% of the folate (the form of folic acid found in food) you get from food, 85% of the folic acid in fortified grains and cereal, and 100% of the folic acid contained in a multi-vitamin.  Read this special health report from the Harvard Medical School on why it’s important to back up a healthy diet with a daily multi-vitamin.

Does my multi-vitamin or favorite cereal contain folic acid?

This is easy to determine, too.  Read the label – it should tell you exactly how much folic acid your multi-vitamin or favorite cereal contain.  Again, you want a multi-vitamin or cereal that contains at least 400 mcg of folate.

How to tell if your cereal or multivitamin contains the recommended amount of folic acid

We hope that we convinced you…

… to Go Folic! in 2013.  It’s one easy step you can take for a healthier, and more beautiful you!  Should you decide to start or expand your family, it is also one step towards a healthier tomorrow.

January 6-12 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week (NFAAW)!

National Council on Folic Acid - Folic Acid Now!By taking the B-vitamin folic acid at least three months before pregnancy, women can reduce their risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) by 70%. Since half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control wants all reproductive-age women to take a daily supplement with at least 400 mcg of this nutrient.

Despite this advice, almost 2/3 of women in the U.S. don’t take a folic acid supplement.   This week was created by the National Council on Folic Acid in order to increasing awareness of the importance of doing just that.

Why ALL Women Need Folic Acid

If you’re not thinking of getting pregnant right now, you might think, “Why do I need folic acid?”  This vitamin plays a crucial role in cell formation and growth, so is important for all women, whether or not they want to get pregnant.  As the above video makes clear, taking a daily multi-vitamin with folic acid:

  • Is good for your hair, skin and nails;
  • May help to lower your risk for certain cancers;
  • Can help your body deal with stress.

Check out “Be Beautiful” and “Be Healthy” on our website for more info.

Go Folic! NFAAW Events

Almost 2/3 of women Go Folic! (a project of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section) is using the week to  celebrating with the following:

  • A Multi-Vitamin Give-Away designed to get San Francisco women into the habit of “Going Folic.”  Clients at the Department’s youth clinics, and women registering for San Francisco’s health care access program, Healthy SF, will receive a FREE bottle (3 months supply) of multi-vitamins with 100% of the RDA for folic acid.
  • San Francisco women, ages 14-44, can also pick up a free bottle of Go Folic! Multi-Vitamins by coming by the project office.
  • A daily blog highlighting pertinent topics throughout the week;
  • We will also feature other organizations’ NWAAF activities on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Tune in tomorrow to learn how to get the most from your Go Folic! Multis.

Before Pregnancy Multivitamins May Mean Fewer Premies!

pregnancy test is positiveIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that taking a multivitamin with folic acid before you get pregant can reduce your future babies risk of being born with a neural tube defect (NTDs are serious problems with the brain or spine).  According to a new Danish study, just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it could lower your risk of preterm labor, too!

The Study

Poor nutrition is thought to play a role in pregnancy complications, such as preterm births and poor growth rates within the womb. The researchers asked 36,000 pregnant Danish womenabout their diet, weight and vitamin use.

Among those who said they had taken multivitamins at least eight out of the 12 weeks before conception, there were 4.3 percent preterm births (before 37 weeks). For those who didn’t take the supplements, the number was 5.3 percent. The vitamin-popping women were also less likely to have a smaller-than-normal baby.

While not conclusive, study findings are similar to those of a similar 2010 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.  In this study, women who took folic acid at least 1 year before getting pregnant had a greatly reduced risk for having a premie.

Great news for women thinking of getting pregnant!

In California, 1 in 12 babies are born too early. Babies born before 37 weeks are not yet fully developed. Some babies who are born too early don’t live. Those who do survive often have serious life-long problems like blindness, deafness, lung problems, heart problems, liver problems, retardation, learning disabilities, difficulty eating, anemia, and cerebral palsy.

Some nutritionists recommend that pregnant women or women who are thinking of becoming pregnant not take mega-doses of certain vitamins.  However, it’s hard to eat right all of the time.  If you’re planning to get pregnant, eating right + taking a good daily multi with 100% of the RDA for all major vitamins (vs. mega-doses) can give you added insurance that you’re doing everything you can for your future baby’s health.  

San Francisco Women – Get Your Free Vitamins!

If you are a woman between the ages of 14-50 and live in San Francisco, you can get a year’s supply of FREE multivitamins from the SF Dept. of Public Health.  Click here to find out how.  And to get the most out of your vitamins, read our recent post on this topic.

Clinician’s Corner – Should You Use the New Birth Control Pill?

Should You Use the New Birth Control Pill?

Have you heard about Beyaz?
This is a newly approved birth control pill that is basically like the Yasmin (Yaz) pills. The only difference between them is that the Beyaz birth control pill has a form of folic acid in it. This means that for as long as a woman takes Beyaz correctly, she is getting over 400 mcg of this very important B vitamin every day. For more information about Beyaz, go to http://www.beyaz.com/.

What should you remember about folate and folic acid?
• Folate is a type of B vitamin found naturally in many foods. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that you get when you take a vitamin supplement.
• Many teenagers and adult women don’t get enough of this vitamin which is very important for their health.
• Ideally, folic acid supplementation should be taken three months before you get pregnant and during the first 3 months of pregnancy or longer to help reduce the chances your baby will be born with problems of the spine and brain.
• If you take folic acid supplementation for a year or longer before pregnancy, it may help decrease the chances your baby will be born too early or perhaps with other serious health problems.
• The vitamin doesn’t last long in your body. If you become pregnant soon after you stop taking it, your health and the health of the pregnancy will not be getting the benefits of the vitamin. For more information about folic acid, go to http://www.gofolic.org/facts/index.html.

Why does Beyaz have folic acid in it?
Since so many women don’t get enough of the vitamin for their general health and don’t take a separate multivitamin every day, the folic acid in the pill may help women’s health in general. Also, some women get pregnant when they are on the pill, mainly because of not taking it correctly. If this were to happen, the pregnancy would also get the benefits of the vitamin.

What if you were to get pregnant while taking Beyaz?
You should stop the pill and begin taking a multivitamin with at least 600 mcg of folic acid. Sometimes, a woman’s doctor will advise her to take up to 1000 mcg of folic acid during her pregnancy. This depends on the woman’s health and if she had any problems with past pregnancies.

If you like the hormonal birth control method you are using now, should you change to Beyaz?
There is no reason to change your method if you feel good on the hormones you are taking. You may not feel as good on Beyaz. All women are different.

What is important is to continue to use your hormonal method correctly and take a multivitamin every day. You should also do this even if you are not using a hormonal method. You need folic acid and all the rest of the vitamins that are included in a multivitamin for your health. And if you should want a baby someday, remember, it is important to begin taking the vitamins before you become pregnant!


Barbara Kass-Annese, RNCNP, MSN, is a clinician who has written extensively on the topic of vitamins and women’s health.  She also serves as a medical consultant to the Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project.