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D. Preventing Birth Defects -- and Big Costs, Too

Narrator: This is Science Today. Folic acid, a B vitamin, prevents a terrible birth defect called spina bifida if mothers get enough of it early in pregnancy. Dr. Patrick Romano of the University of California, Davis says that, unfortunately, many women don't.

Romano: Folic acid is present in leafy green vegetables, in beans, in orange juice, but in general, Americans' consumption of these foods is less than what most nutritionists recommend.

Narrator: But there's a way to overcome that deficiency. Romano recommends fortifying America's grain supply with folic acid. Since everyone eats some kind of grain, such as flour, corn, or rice, pregnant women will get enough folic acid to prevent spinal defects in their babies -- and prevent millions of dollars in costs.

Romano: Our best estimate of the net economic benefit of fortification was 94 million dollars with a low level of fortification and about 250 million dollars with high-level fortification.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.