Folic acid in bread 'beats spina bifida', health experts reveal
21:20 GMT, 21 July 2012
Health experts are calling for bread to be fortified with folic acid – an essential B vitamin – in order to cut the number of babies born with spina bifida.
The condition is the most common of a group of disorders known as neural tube defects, affecting 5,000 British children each year.
The neural tube is the part of the developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord.
Health experts are calling for bread to be fortified with folic acid – an essential B vitamin
Defects occur when the neural tube fails to close completely during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms include physical disabilities, developmental delay and bowel and bladder control problems.
In Chile, births of children with neural tube defects halved after the ministry of health there made it compulsory for folic acid, or folate, to be added to flour, say researchers.
Neural tube birth defects were first linked to diet more than 50 years ago.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that women on a poor diet were at higher risk and it was noted that babies conceived in the winter were more likely to be born with spina bifida
There was anecdotal evidence that women on a poor diet were at higher risk and it was noted that babies conceived in the winter were more likely to be born with spina bifida, possibly because the mother’s diet lacked fresh fruit and vegetables – good sources of folate – in the early weeks of pregnancy.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Most people should be able to get enough folate by eating a varied and balanced diet.
‘To help prevent birth defects, we recommend women who might become pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant take a daily supplement of 400mg of folic acid.’