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.
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.
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