Research continues to support adding folic acid to flour to prevent neural tube birth defects (Ntds) such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Here are a few highlights.
- Last year an estimated 35,500 babies – an average of 97 a day – were born without Ntds in 58 countries which implement mandatory programs to fortify flour with folic acid, according to research published in Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology. The research also notes that this figure only represents 13.2% of all NTDs that could be prevented globally.
- Australia saw an overall 14.4% decrease in Ntds following mandatory fortification of wheat flour with folic acid, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The Ntd rate decreased by almost 55% among teenagers and by 74% among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
- Canadian research found an 11% reduction in rates of congenital heart defects after flour there was fortified with folic acid. The beneficial effects were evident in some, but not all, types of congenital heart defects. The authors noted that the study is “modest evidence” for an additional benefit from fortifying with folic acid. The study was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.