Birth Defects

Foods made with corn masa flour — like tortillas, tacos and tamales — could soon play a critical role in the health of babies born to Latina mothers in the U.S.

That's because, as of today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing manufacturers to fortify their corn masa foods with folic acid. That's a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent severe defects of the brain and spinal cord when consumed by women before and early in pregnancy.

Florida Governor Ramps Up Mosquito Fight To Stay Ahead Of Zika

Feb 8, 2016

Florida is one of several U.S. states now reporting a few isolated cases of people infected with the Zika virus. In response, Florida's Gov. Rick Scott has declared a public health emergency in five counties in hopes of getting ahead of the virus's spread.

So far, just 12 cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been reported to health authorities in Florida, all of them among travelers who contracted the disease outside the U.S. But Scott figures it's only a matter of time before the virus starts showing up among mosquitoes in some regions of the state, too.

What You Need To Know About The Zika Virus

Jan 25, 2016
Scientists beieve that mosquitoes, such as Aedes aegypti, pictured here, are the main vector for transmission of the zika virus to humans.
Rafaelgilo via Wikimedia Commons

Three pregnant women in Florida and two in Illinois - all of whom had traveled to South America - have tested positive for the Zika virus. Governments in South America and the Caribbean have asked women to avoid getting pregnant, and the CDC now warns US women of childbearing age not to travel to countries where the disease is spreading. That's because the Zika virus has been linked to  a condition called microcephaly, where babies are born with small heads and incomplete brain development.

Harold Maduro / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you ate cereal this morning, chances are you got the recommended daily allowance of folic acid.

Most U.S. cereals have 100 percent of the daily value, which protects against serious spinal cord abnormalties that can develop before a woman even knows she's pregnant.

The FDA requires folic acid be added to enriched bread, flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta and other grain products, but not the corn masa tortillas are commonly made with.