Published: Sat, February 03, 2018
Science | By

UK Should Fortify Its Flour With Folic Acid, Scientists Say

UK Should Fortify Its Flour With Folic Acid, Scientists Say

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.

While neural tube defects also have a genetic component, the increased risk from folic acid deficiency was first exposed in 1991, prompting countries, including Canada, the USA and many African and Caribbean nations, to begin fortifying common foods.

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.

As a result, 81 countries have introduced mandatory folic acid fortification of cereals, resulting in the number of neural tube defects decreasing by up to a half in these nations.

A spokesperson added: "We want mums-to-be to have healthy pregnancies, and NHS guidance is that women planning a pregnancy should take a daily supplement of 400mg of folic acid before conception and until the 12th week of pregnancy".

The new paper calls this idea into question by re-analysing the results of the studies used to support this conclusion. Instead, they re-analyzed the data and discovered no association between elevated levels of folic acid along with neurological damage. The IOM concluded that treating individuals with vitamin B12 deficiency with higher doses of folic acid might lead to an increased risk of neurological damage.

In countries with mandatory folic acid fortification, incidences of neural tube defects have drpped by as much as 50%, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London and the School of Advanced Study at University of London.

"It's a completely avoidable tragedy".

Anencephaly and spina bifida - together known as neural tube defects - are serious and relatively common birth defects, affecting one in every 500-1,000 pregnancies. Taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid did not appear to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

"The upper limit should be discarded", the researchers wrote in their study.

He said that on average every day in Britain, two women terminate pregnancies because of neural tube defects, and every week two women give birth to an affected child.

A neural tube defect involves abnormal development of the brain, spine or spinal cord. Government now needs to implement this simple, highly effective public health measure'.

And yet, advising women who might become pregnant to do this hasn't been effective at reducing NTDs in the United Kingdom and Europe; supplements probably need to be taken before conception to be effective and not all pregnancies are planned. "What is new about this study is its suggestion that low carbohydrate intake could increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect by 30 percent", study leader Tania Desrosiers said in a university news release.

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