A new research discovered that folic acid does not only reduce risks of spina bifida and other neural tube defects, it is now also associated with reduced rates of congenital heart defects. The study was made in Canada and analyze the impact of a law that made mandatory food fortification with folic acid. The results apply to the United States because a similar law was also implemented in the country.
The study was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation on Monday and analyzed the Canadian experience before and after food fortification was mandatory. In 1998, Canada mandated adding folic acid, a B vitamin required in human diets for numerous biological functions, to all types of flour, enriched pasta, and cornmeal. The purpose of adding the extra vitamin was to prevent neural tube defects in babies such as spina bifida, and abnormality of the spine and spinal cord.
Dr. K.S. Joseph, the study’s senior author, stated that the research examined the effect of folic acid food fortification in Canada particular subtype of congenital heart disease. Joseph is M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
The data for the study involved 6 million Canadian births from 1990 to 2011, controlling for influences such as maternal age, multiple births -twins, triplets- pregnancy complications, prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy terminations that could interfere with the results.
Researchers found that folic acid food fortification was associated with an 11 percent reduction in rates of congenital heart defects overall, and in some subtypes of congenital heart defects, folic acid was even more beneficial.
Babies had 27 percent reduction in conotruncal defects, or severe heart outflow tract abnormalities, and 23 percent reduction in coarctation of the aorta, which is a narrowing of the aorta, the major artery that carries a necessary amount of blood to the body.
Other subtypes of congenital heart defects that are reduced by the consumption of folic acid food fortification are atrial and ventricular septal defects, with a 15 percent reduction. Atrial and ventricular defects are holes in the wall separating heart chambers.
Unfortunately, the research did not show any changes regarding chromosomally associated errors, which means a reduced number of cases of infants with more or fewer chromosomes, related to Down Syndrome and other conditions.
The final results of the Canadian study, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, are applicable to the U.S. population because the North American Fair Trade Agreement of 1994 obliged the United States to follow folic acid food fortification as in Canada almost at the same time. This means that Americans are consuming folic acid in all types all flour, pasta, and cornmeal.
Folic acid: A vital vitamin for human beings and processes involving rapid cell division and growth
The press release states that folic acid does not only help to prevent disease, but it is especially important for fast cell division and growth processes. Without folic acid, red blood cells could fail to carry enough oxygen and provoke several conditions.
Folate deficiency can lead to several complications including neural tube defects in babies and anemia, a disease in which the number and functions of red blood cells are affected and prevent them from carrying sufficient oxygen to the baby’s body, affecting its functions. When assuring a diet rich in folic acid, the growth of a fetus or even when blood is being formed are processes that benefit from the extra B vitamin.
Dr. Joseph recommended women who are likely to get pregnant to start taking folic acid supplements before getting pregnant to guarantee an adequate folate because she may not receive the necessary amount from diet alone.
Source: American Heart Association