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A drive to fortify bread with folic acid

There is widespread knowledge now about folic acid’s importance in diet. It is now being contemplated to add it to bread. Food Standards Agency would most likely// sanction a 12-week consultation exercise, alongside consumer research.

The importance of folic acid lies in the fact that it cuts the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

The flip side is that adding the vitamin to popular foods could be harmful to some elderly patients, as it could mask a deficiency in another B group vitamin - B12.

Still, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommended the overall benefits of increasing people's folate levels would outweigh any risks last November

Women are advised to take 400 microgram supplements when trying to get pregnant, and during first three months of pregnancy. It may cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, and types of cancer.

The FSA favours adding folic acid to the nutrient mix already added to white flour.

Still, research suggests that only half of women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant adhere to this advice. Research has shown that folate, of which folic acid is a form, which is found in certain foods cuts cardiovascular disease risk. Studies are ongoing to see if synthetic folic acid supplements do the same.

There have been reports that folic acid may be linked to certain cancers, but SACN looked at the available data and said there was no good evidence to suggest that this would be a problem if flour were to be fortified.

Andrew Russell, of the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, said: "As far as we are concerned adding a further micro-nutrient to flour makes complete sense. It would prevent a good proportion of spina bifida pregnancies and would also benefit the health of the country as a whole."

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