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Sun Exposure May Cut Women's Conception Likelihood

Update Date: Mar 21, 2014 06:11 PM EDT

Sunshine may not help women who take folic acid supplements to get pregnant, according to a new study.

Researchers found that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive by taking a folic acid supplement may be at risk of reducing their folate benefit through sun exposure.

The latest study linked ultraviolet radiation exposure to a significant depletion of folate levels in young women.

The latest study, conducted by Professor Michael Kimlin and Dr David Borradale, from Queensland University of Technology's AusSun Research Lab, involved 45 young healthy women living in Brisbane. The women were between the ages of 18 and 47.

The findings revealed that frequent sun exposure lead to a 20 percent decrease in folate levels.

"This is concerning as the benefits of folic acid are well-known, with health professionals urging young women to take a folic acid supplement prior to and during pregnancy," Kimlin said in a news release.

"Folate has been found to reduce miscarriage and neural tube defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies. The NHMRC recommends pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy take 500 micrograms a day," he added.

Researchers said the latest study is the first to look into the effects of sun exposure on folate levels in women of childbearing age. Researchers said the findings are worrying because women who had high levels of sun exposure had folate levels below those recommended for women who want to get pregnant.

"The women at risk were those who were outside during the most UV intense time of the day, between 10am and 3pm, with little sun protection," Kimlin said. "These were the women who had the highest levels of sun exposure and the lowest levels of folate, whilst not deficient in folate, they were on the lower side of normal."

"We are not telling women to stop taking folate supplements, but rather urging women to talk to their doctor about their folate levels and the importance of folate in their diet, especially those who are planning a pregnancy," Borradale added in the university release.

"The results of this study reinforce the need for adequate folate levels prior to and during pregnancy," he concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B:Biology.

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