Neural Tube Defects Drop After Folic Acid Fortification

Prevalence of defects fell by about half after folic acid introduction in Canada

WEDNESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of neural tube defects fell by nearly half after folic acid fortification of foods was introduced in Canada in 1998, according to a study in the July 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Philippe De Wals, Ph.D., from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, and colleagues examined the effect of folic acid fortification of foods in Canada on the prevalence of neural tube defects. Fortification was introduced in 1998 and the study examined 1.9 million live births, stillbirths and pregnancy terminations due to fetal anomalies from 1993-2002.

The researchers found there were 2,446 subjects with neural tube defects over this period. The prevalence of neural tube defects fell by 46 percent after folic acid fortification was introduced, from 1.58 to 0.86 per 1,000 births. The decrease was greatest in areas of Canada where the rate of defects was high before fortification, and fortification removed most geographical differences in prevalence.

"Food fortification with folic acid was associated with a significant reduction in the rate of neural tube defects in Canada," De Wals and colleagues conclude.

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