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Folic acid enriched grain reduces birth defects

Supplementation of food with folic acid as found to reduce the rate of birth defects. Results of the research published in the Journal Pediatrics have found that more than one third of birth defects are reduced by enriching flours, rice and pastas with folic acid.// Spina bifida and anencephaly, known as neural-tube defects, arise when the spinal column of a developing embryo does not properly close during the first weeks of pregnancy. The defect causes paralysis in spina bifida and fatal brain deformation in anencephaly.

Folic acid is given to elder people for balancing the Vitamin B12 deficiencies. In 1991, pregnant women were recommended to take synthetic folic acid to prevent the risk of birth defects as this vitamin which is found in green leafy vegetables, grains and citrus fruits are not easily absorbed by the body. So, women of childbearing age were recommended to take 400 micrograms of folic acid to prevent the children’s from birth defects. The FDA in 1998 recommended that 140 micrograms of folic acid can be added to each 100 grams of grains and the fortified product should carry the label “enriched”.

Other scientists, however, said not enough is known about the consequences of enriching food with folic acid and cautioned that even rare side effects could affect a significant number of people when the entire population is receiving the vitamin through food.

Dr. Godfrey Oakley, a research professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and one of the main advocates of folic-acid fortification, said the findings showed that the FDA should require a higher dose. Other research has suggested that as much as 75 percent of all neural-tube defects could be prevented by a higher level of folic-acid fortification, he said.

Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a CDC clinical geneticist and a co-author of the paper, said women of childbearing age can ensure they are getting 400 micrograms of folic acid each day by taking mul tivitamins, folic acid supplements or fortified breakfast cereals
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