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Folic acid could prevent against birth defects

8th March 2006

Folic acid in the diet can help prevent birth defects and improve the survival chances of children born with them, according to a new study in the United States.

In 1998 folic acid was added to enriched breads, cereals and other grain foods in the US upon the advice of the US-FDA in order to increase its intake among the population.

Researchers looking at over 2,800 children born with spina bifida between 1998 and 2001, found that 92 per cent survived their first year of life, compared to 90 per cent before 1998 when compulsory fortification was introduced.

The study, published in the journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics, also found that the number of children born with birth defects since 1998 has fallen by 26 per cent.

In the study’s editorial researchers claim their findings are “a stern reminder that, although the severity of spina bifida may have decreased with fortification, too many children continue to develop [it] because our enriched grains do not have enough folic acid”.

Experts are now calling for an increase in fortification levels in the US.

Compulsory fortification of flour products with folic acid has not yet been introduced in Britain, although analysts believe it will only be a matter of time before the government acts on the evidence proving its benefits.

Folic acid is a B vitamin which is found in fruits, leafy green vegetables and other foods.

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