Folic acid back on the agenda?

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Buttriss: study revealed a low maternal blood folate level in early pregnancy is linked with poorer cognitive function
Buttriss: study revealed a low maternal blood folate level in early pregnancy is linked with poorer cognitive function

Related tags: Folic acid

In October 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) wrote to UK health ministers about recent information that adds weight to the case for effective measures to improve folate status, especially of women in reproductive years.

The letter referred to advice on folic acid fortification from SACN in 2006, and highlighted that 85.5% of UK women aged 16–49 fail to meet the blood folate level that minimises risk of a neural tube defect (NTD) affected pregnancy.

Quick announcement

Scottish ministers were quick to announce they are considering adding folic acid to flour but a formal response from the UK government is awaited.

Meanwhile, a Dutch study published in the British Journal of Nutrition has revealed that a low maternal blood folate level in early pregnancy is linked with poorer cognitive function and brain growth in offspring at age 6–8 years.

Subtle differences

Even in the absence of NTD, subtle differences were found, suggesting that mild to moderate folate insufficiency in early pregnancy affects brain development.

The study highlighted the need for women of childbearing age to pay attention to their diet and also take the recommended folic acid supplements prior to and during pregnancy.

  • Judy Buttriss is director general of the British Nutrition Foundation

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1 comment

Can government respond to nutrition evidence rather than celebrity opinion?

Posted by Mythbuster,

Is nutrition science the loser in government policy?

The benefit of folic acid increases have been known for decades and has good supporting evidence, yet the government still dithers and babies continue to be born with neural tube defects.

Compare this with a ridiculous sugar tax on soft drinks, where there is no evidence at all of benefit to obesity. Where are any studies showing a soft drink sugar tax reduces obesity levels. All a sugar tax on soft drinks does is provide income for the treasury. A populist chef with no nutrition qualifications backs a campaign and the government respond.

Can we have real scientific evidence to support government policy, please

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