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Why All the Fuss about Folic Acid?

The Food Standards Agency is come out with the new plan of fortification of flour and bread with folic acid. It is synthetic form of the vitamin B//. It is essential for cell division and is found naturally in liver, yeast extract (Marmite) and leafy green vegetables. It also protects an unborn baby from developing neural tube disorders such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It also protects against anemia and may cut the risk of a baby being born with a cleft lip or palate.

The body does not produce it naturally and hence has to be supplemented along with the diet with an intake around 200 micrograms a day. It is recommended that all women of childbearing age should take 400mcg of folic acid each day. By boosting the levels of folic acid in the flour experts believe that it would reduce the number of babies born with defects. It is been proved that in countries where folic acid fortification has been introduced, the neural tube defect rate has been reduced. Apart from this the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has also suggested that folic acid prevents low birth weight, help conditions such as heart disease and stabilize blood pressure.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association it was found that there is an increased evidence of folate's cardiovascular benefits. The Harvard team studied data on 156,000 nurses and found those with the lowest intakes of folate were at greater risk of hypertension. Despite all these benefits the main objection is that it would mask vitamin B12 deficiency. About 10 % of those aged 65 and older have borderline B12 levels. Though Folic acid supplements can correct the anemia associated with vitamin B12 deficiency but does not prevent the resulting damage to the nervous system and infact accelerates it.


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