Folic acid supplements cut spina bifida cases

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The Independent Online

Fortifying foods such as flour and pasta with folic acid could significantly reduce the likelihood of babies being born with disabilities such as spina bifida, a study shows.

Fortifying foods such as flour and pasta with folic acid could significantly reduce the likelihood of babies being born with disabilities such as spina bifida, a study shows.

The number of babies with neural tube defects, brain or spine abnormalities, has fallen by more than 75 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador since a law forced fortification of staple foods with folic acid. Women who take folic acid supplements while trying to conceive reduce the risks of having a baby with neural tube defects. The Food Standards Agency advises a daily supplement of 400 micrograms.

Folic acid occurs naturally in green leafy vegetables, brown rice, yeast extract, oranges and bananas. More than 30 countries already decree fortification of food products, leading to a fall in the number of babies being born with defects.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, folic acid has been added to all flour, cornmeal and pasta since 1998. Researchers found the proportion of babies born with neural tube defects in the province has fallen by 78 per cent in six years.

An average of 100 babies with neural tube defects are born in the UK each year, but up to 1,000 are estimated to be terminated befor birth.

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