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Is folic acid the key to preventing birth defects? 

Health

Is folic acid the key to preventing birth defects? 

(Pic: Folic Acid Supplements are available in all leading chemists (C) Moona Popal)

Health ministers across the UK are urging the government to fortify flour with Folic Acid, to prevent birth defects, as well to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer. Moona Popal reports

A new study conducted by Queen Mary University has shown that folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid contains Vitamin B which helps the body to form healthy red blood cells, but more importantly it reduces the risk of central neural tube defects, such as Spinal Bifida in unborn babies.

Health ministers now want the UK to fortify flour, like 80 other countries, as concerns have risen after the amount of unplanned pregnancies in the UK. This is due to the fact that folic acid is needed most in the very early stages of pregnancy. Research has shown that many women can be protected from NTD and that the cost would just be mere “pennies”.

A report conducted in 2015 by the British Medical Journal, states that over 2000 pregnancies associated with neural tube defect could have been avoided, if the UK, like the rest of the world followed suit and adopted the fortification system.

Head of Food Science at LSBU, Dr.Chris Brock said: “Folic acid is a vitamin, and vitamins are chemicals that we can’t make ourselves and therefore [we] have to consume them, as our body needs them”.

He emphasised that: “Folic acid is particularly important in the early development of the fetus, and if a pregnant woman has a deficiency of folic acid, they are in dangers of neural tube defect”.

Folic acid isn’t just advised to be taken by pregnant women, but to everyone. Folate operates in red blood cells, which helps us protect and fight against heart disease and breast cancer. Not enough folate in the body also causes a risk of many cancers such as cervical, colon, brain, and lung. It can also cause symptoms such as weakness of the body, extreme fatigue and shortness of breath.

Although the main source of folic acid for the rest of the world is mainly found in fortified products, there are also other foods that contain the vitamin naturally such as spinach, Brussel sprouts, beef liver, asparagus and white rice.

Reporter Theo Giles explored folic acid fortification further

 

Here is the full interview with Dr Chris Brock

 

By Moona Popal

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