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Folic Acid in Flour - a save against birth defects

At least 38,417 serious birth defects like spina bifida were prevented globally last year where flour is fortified with folic acid. That was an average of more than 105 healthy babies a day!

The 2012 number of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) that were prevented is up from the 22,000 NTDs that were prevented in 2008 due to flour fortification. While that shows progress, the 2012 figure is only 15.6 percent of the NTDs that could be prevented.

Folic acid deficiency can also cause anaemia. After fortification in the United States, only one person among 1,546 adults aged 50 and older had folate-deficiency anaemia.

The birth defects which can be prevented with folic acid are called neural tube defects (NTDs). The most common NTD is spina bifida in which the baby’s spine does not form correctly. Children born with spina bifida will undergo a lifetime of surgeries and face many health issues. A common consequence of spina bifida is hydrocephalus or swelling of the brain. Spina bifida cannot be cured.

Another type of NTD is anencephaly in which the brain does not form properly. Anencephaly is always fatal. To prevent NTDs, women need extra folic acid before conception and in the first few weeks of pregnancy. If they are not planning a pregnancy or are not aware they are pregnant during that time, they are not likely to take folic acid supplements. Fortification, on the other hand, provides more folic acid through the daily consumption of bread and other flour-based foods. People of all ages need folic acid because this B vitamin helps produce and maintain healthy cells.

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