Common congenital anomalies: Environmental causes and prevention with folic acid containing multivitamins

Swapnalee Sarmah, Pooja Muralidharan, James A Marrs
Birth Defects Research. Part C, Embryo Today: Reviews 2016, 108 (3): 274-286
Congenital anomalies, congenital defects, or birth defects are significant causes of death in infants. The most common congenital defects are congenital heart defects (CHDs) and neural tube defects (NTDs). Defects induced by genetic mutations, environmental exposure to toxins, or a combination of these effects can result in congenital malformations, leading to infant death or long-term disabilities. These defects produce significant mortality and morbidity in the affected individuals, and families are affected emotional and financially. Also, society is impacted on many levels. Congenital anomalies may be reduced by dietary supplements of folic acid and other vitamins. Here, we review the evidence for specific roles of toxins (alcohol, cigarette smoke) in causing common severe congenital anomalies like CHDs, NTDs, and ocular defects. We also review the evidence for beneficial effects for dietary supplementation, and highlight gaps in our knowledge, where research may contribute to additional benefits of intervention that can reduce birth defects. Extensive discussion of common severe congenital anomalies (CHDs, NTDs, and ocular defects) illustrates the effects of diet on the frequency and severity of these defects. Birth Defects Research (Part C) 108:274-286, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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