News

Food fortification decreases risk of folic acid deficiency

January 18, 2011

A new Australian study shows that blood folate (vitamin B9) levels to increase in the population after mandatory folic acid fortification of bread products.

Analyzing more than 20,000 blood samples collected from a wide spectrum of Australian hospital patients between April 2007 and April 2010, researchers found a 77% reduction (from 9.3% to 2.1%) in low serum folate levels (1). The drop occurred between April 2009 and April 2010 when Australian millers added folic acid to wheat flour for making bread. Among those who experienced a drop in serum folate levels were women of childbearing age. This is one of the key population sub-groups targeted by the supplementation program, because folic acid has the ability to reduce neural tube defects in newborns.

The researchers concluded that this study provides the first clear evidence that the prevalence of folate deficiency in Australia has significantly decreased since the implementation of mandatory fortification. There is ongoing controversy regarding possible harmful effects of folic acid intake from fortified products, driven by conflicting reports regarding whether risk of cancer, heart disease and masking of vitamin B12 deficiency increase after folic acid supplementation.

References

  1. Brown R. D. et al. The impact of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid on the blood folate levels of an Australian population. Medical Journal of Australia. 2011; 194 (2): 65–67.