Thursday, 21 February, 2019

UK Should Fortify Its Flour With Folic Acid, Scientists Say

Pregnant women take folic acid supplements to help prevent birth defects Pregnant women take folic acid supplements to help prevent birth defectsALAMY
Melissa Porter | 01 February, 2018, 02:27

Britain's failure to legislate to make food producers fortify flour with folic acid to help prevent babies being born with birth defects is based on flawed analysis and should be reversed, scientists said on Wednesday.

Study co-author Professor Joan Morris, also from the Wolfson Institute, said: 'From 1998, when the United States introduced mandatory folic acid fortification, to 2017, an estimated 3,000 neural tube defects could have been prevented if the UK had adopted the same level of fortification as in the US.

It also said the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food, had focused nearly entirely on "hypothetical harms" such as neurological symptoms in not implementing such a regulation.

Most flour, and hence bread, in the U.S. and Canada has been fortified with folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, since 1998.

The report said: "Fortification alone does not achieve full protection, but it provides a population safety net that contributes to the overall preventive effect, particularly important for the large number of women who have not taken supplements before becoming pregnant".

A study by Queen Mary University of London and the School of Advanced Study at the University of London concludes that there is no need for an upper limit of folate intake. It was determined that any neurological damage observed during these trials was caused by improperly-treated vitamin B12 deficiencies, rather than folic acid. One reasons given is that this might lead to increased intake of folic acid, a B vitamin, above maximum levels, known as an "upper limit", suggested in 1998 by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) - now the National Academy of Medicine. They claim nerve damage was not caused by folic acid, but by not treating B12 deficiency with B12.

Back in 1991 the United Kingdom review demonstrated that nitric acid is taken and during early phases of pregnancy may prevent babies from growing quite standard "neural tubes" defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida.These consequences convinced 81 countries, for example, the USA, to introduce mandatory fortification of cereals with folic acid.

Wald added that on average, two women in Britain terminate pregnancies daily because of neural tube defects, and two women give birth to a child with such conditions every week.

'Around 80 countries already fortify foods and report significant reductions in neural tube defects.

Prof Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the new research was "a game-changer for fortification". Government now needs to implement this simple, highly effective public health measure'.

Women looking to become pregnant are advised by the Department of Health to take 0.4mg of folic acid supplement every day - from before pregnancy to until 12 weeks of being pregnant - to prevent the risk of NTDs.