A new study published in the March 2004 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, led by Dr. Mark I. Evans of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center (Manhattan, N.Y.) compared 27,000 pregnancies from 1997 and 34,000 from 2000. It concluded that folic acid (a.k.a. vitamin B9), in addition to breads and grains sold in the U.S., cut by a third the number of fetuses at risk for birth defects (e.g., neural tube defects, including spina bifida), which folic acid deficiency can cause. Low folate levels early in pregnancy can cause birth defects. The government required folic acid fortification in 1998, after efforts to persuade women of childbearing age to take folic acid supplements had not led to a decrease in the defects. Dr. James L. Mills, at the National Institutes of Health, who has no connection with the research, agreed with Evans' findings. Mills noted a 50% drop after fortification in Canada. www.greenjournal.org