Monday, October 30, 2006

Folate intake still below recommendations despite fortification

Despite significant improvements in public health measures to increase folate intakes through fortification of grain products, dietary intakes still fall well below recommendations. Regular use of a multivitamin supplement containing folic acid is an easy way to ensure that you receive an adequate intake.

Folate is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, chick peas and lentils, and it is increasingly accepted that folate deficiency in early pregnancy is linked to a risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly in infants. This connection led to the introduction of public health measures in the US and Canada, whereby all grain products are fortified with folic acid " the synthetic, bioavailable form of folate. A new study, published in October's American Journal of Public Health, concluded that since fortification was implemented folic acid intake has in fact increased, but not nearly enough to meet FDA goals and recommendations. Even with significant improvements and widespread fortification, only 39 percent of white women, 26 percent of black women, and 28 percent of Mexican American women attained the 400 microgram per day target for folate consumption. In addition, over half the subgroups showed a decrease in folic acid intake since fortification began in 1998. The FDA recommends at least 400 micrograms of folate daily for nonpregnant women, and adult men, as well as children four and older. However, the daily recommendation for pregnant women increases to at least 800 micrograms per day. Despite the fact that recent surveys show that the majority of women know the importance of folic acid, daily folic acid supplementation appears to be critical since dietary intakes still fall well below recommendations.

Source: Population-Level Changes in Folate Intake by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity after Folic Acid Fortification, Tanya G.K. Bentley, Walter C. Willett, Milton C. Weinstein, and Karen M. Kuntz, American Journal of Public Health, November 2006, 96(11), 2040-2047