Research Supports Folic Acid Fortification

The National Post reports researchers at McGill University support fortifying bread and other food with folic acid. Women should also take supplements before and around the time they get pregnant, a recommendation made by many experts.

“Folic acid is important and it reduces birth defects,” says Dr. Rima Rozen, head of the new study.

A synthetic form of naturally occurring folate, folic acid has been mandated in Canada as an addition to white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal since 1998, with seemingly dramatic results. A 2007 study concluded rates of fetal neural tube defects had fallen by 50% per year.

The recommendation is that women consume 0.4 mg of folic acid supplements each day in the three-month period before they conceive and during the first trimester of pregnancy to achieve optimum blood levels. The latest McGill study suggests, however, that massive amounts – in this case, 20 times the recommended dosage – can be problematic, so moderation is key.

“We know there are definite benefits of folate,” says Dr. Deborah L. O’Connor, Director of Clinical Dietetics at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. “[With] any nutrient, you don’t want too little, you want enough, which is about in the middle, and too much usually gets us into trouble.” What’s important, she adds, is that “possible, unproven risks associated with excessive amounts of the stuff should not dissuade anyone from taking the recommended dose.”

To read the full article, visit The National Post.