PMCC PMCC

Search tips
Search criteria

Advanced
Results 1-25 (1059790)

Clipboard (0)
None

Related Articles

1.  Folic acid to reduce neonatal mortality from neural tube disorders 
International Journal of Epidemiology  2010;39(Suppl 1):i110-i121.
Background Neural tube defects (NTDs) remain an important, preventable cause of mortality and morbidity. High-income countries have reported large reductions in NTDs associated with folic acid supplementation or fortification. The burden of NTDs in low-income countries and the effectiveness of folic acid fortification/supplementation are unclear.
Objective To review the evidence for, and estimate the effect of, folic acid fortification/supplementation on neonatal mortality due to NTDs, especially in low-income countries.
Methods We conducted systematic reviews, abstracted data meeting inclusion criteria and evaluated evidence quality using adapted Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology. Where appropriate, meta-analyses were performed.
Results Meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of folic acid supplementation for women with a previous pregnancy with NTD indicates a 70% [95% confidence interval (CI): 35–86] reduction in recurrence (secondary prevention). For NTD primary prevention through folic acid supplementation, combining one RCT with three cohort studies which adjusted for confounding, suggested a reduction of 62% (95% CI: 49–71). A meta-analysis of eight population-based observational studies examining folic acid food fortification gave an estimated reduction in NTD incidence of 46% (95% CI: 37–54). In low-income countries an estimated 29% of neonatal deaths related to visible congenital abnormalities are attributed to NTD. Assuming that fortification reduces the incidence of NTDs, but does not alter severity or case-fatality rates, we estimate that folic acid fortification could prevent 13% of neonatal deaths currently attributed to congenital abnormalities in low-income countries.
Discussion Scale-up of periconceptional supplementation programmes is challenging. Our final effect estimate was therefore based on folic acid fortification data. If folic acid food fortification achieved 100% population coverage the number of NTDs in low-income countries could be approximately halved.
Conclusion The evidence supports both folic acid supplementation and fortification as effective in reducing neonatal mortality from NTDs.
doi:10.1093/ije/dyq028
PMCID: PMC2845867  PMID: 20348114
Neonatal mortality; folic acid; neural tube defects; pregnancy; infant; newborn; Neural Tube Defects/mortality/prevention & control; dietary supplements
2.  Folate during reproduction: the Canadian experience with folic acid fortification 
Nutrition Research and Practice  2007;1(3):163-174.
Folate has received international attention regarding its role in the risk-reduction of birth defects, specifically neural tube defects (NTDs). In 1998, health officials in Canada, like the United States, mandated the addition of folic acid to white flour and select grain products to increase the folate intake of reproductive-aged women. Subsequent to this initiative there has been an increase in blood folate concentrations in Canada and a 50% reduction in NTDs. Many countries, including Korea, have not mandated folic acid fortification of their food supply. Reasons vary but often include concern over the masking of vitamin B12 deficiency, a belief that folate intakes among womenare adequate, low priority relative to other domestic issues, and the philosophy that individuals have the right not to consume supplemental folic acid if they so choose. Prior to folic acid fortification of the food supply in Canada, the folate intakes of women were low, and their blood folate concentrations while not sufficiently low to produce overt signs of folate deficiency (eg. anemia) were inconsistent with a level known to reduce the risk of an NTD-affected pregnancy. The purpose of this article is to describe the role of folate during the periconceptional period, pregnancy, and during lactation. The rationale for, and history of recommending folic acid-containing supplements during the periconceptional period and pregnancy is described as is folic acid fortification of the food supply. The impact of folic acid fortification in Canada is discussed, and unresolved issues associated with this policy described. While the incidence of NTDs in Canada pre-folic acid fortification were seemingly higherthan that of Korea today, blood folate levels of Korean women are strikingly similar. We will briefly explore these parallels in an attempt to understand whether folic acid fortification of the food supply in Korea might be worth consideration
doi:10.4162/nrp.2007.1.3.163
PMCID: PMC2849017  PMID: 20368933
Folic acid; fortification; periconceptional period; pregnancy; lactation
3.  Population red blood cell folate concentrations for prevention of neural tube defects: bayesian model 
Objective To determine an optimal population red blood cell (RBC) folate concentration for the prevention of neural tube birth defects.
Design Bayesian model.
Setting Data from two population based studies in China.
Participants 247 831 participants in a prospective community intervention project in China (1993-95) to prevent neural tube defects with 400 μg/day folic acid supplementation and 1194 participants in a population based randomized trial (2003-05) to evaluate the effect of folic acid supplementation on blood folate concentration among Chinese women of reproductive age.
Intervention Folic acid supplementation (400 μg/day).
Main outcome measures Estimated RBC folate concentration at time of neural tube closure (day 28 of gestation) and risk of neural tube defects.
Results Risk of neural tube defects was high at the lowest estimated RBC folate concentrations (for example, 25.4 (95% uncertainty interval 20.8 to 31.2) neural tube defects per 10 000 births at 500 nmol/L) and decreased as estimated RBC folate concentration increased. Risk of neural tube defects was substantially attenuated at estimated RBC folate concentrations above about 1000 nmol/L (for example, 6 neural tube defects per 10 000 births at 1180 (1050 to 1340) nmol/L). The modeled dose-response relation was consistent with the existing literature. In addition, neural tube defect risk estimates developed using the proposed model and population level RBC information were consistent with the prevalence of neural tube defects in the US population before and after food fortification with folic acid.
Conclusions A threshold for “optimal” population RBC folate concentration for the prevention of neural tube defects could be defined (for example, approximately 1000 nmol/L). Population based RBC folate concentrations, as a biomarker for risk of neural tube defects, can be used to facilitate evaluation of prevention programs as well as to identify subpopulations at elevated risk for a neural tube defect affected pregnancy due to folate insufficiency.
doi:10.1136/bmj.g4554
PMCID: PMC4115151  PMID: 25073783
4.  Preconceptional Folate Supplementation and the Risk of Spontaneous Preterm Birth: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000061.
In an analysis of a cohort of pregnant women, Radek Bukowski and colleagues describe an association between taking folic acid supplements and a reduction in the risk of preterm birth.
Background
Low plasma folate concentrations in pregnancy are associated with preterm birth. Here we show an association between preconceptional folate supplementation and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
In a cohort of 34,480 low-risk singleton pregnancies enrolled in a study of aneuploidy risk, preconceptional folate supplementation was prospectively recorded in the first trimester of pregnancy. Duration of pregnancy was estimated based on first trimester ultrasound examination. Natural length of pregnancy was defined as gestational age at delivery in pregnancies with no medical or obstetrical complications that may have constituted an indication for delivery. Spontaneous preterm birth was defined as duration of pregnancy between 20 and 37 wk without those complications. The association between preconceptional folate supplementation and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth was evaluated using survival analysis. Comparing to no supplementation, preconceptional folate supplementation for 1 y or longer was associated with a 70% decrease in the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery between 20 and 28 wk (41 [0.27%] versus 4 [0.04%] spontaneous preterm births, respectively; HR 0.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08–0.61, p = 0.004) and a 50% decrease in the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery between 28 and 32 wk (58 [0.38%] versus 12 [0.18%] preterm birth, respectively; HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.24–0.83, p = 0.010). Adjustment for maternal characteristics age, race, body mass index, education, marital status, smoking, parity, and history of prior preterm birth did not have a material effect on the association between folate supplementation for 1 y or longer and spontaneous preterm birth between 20 and 28, and 28 to 32 wk (adjusted HR 0.31, 95% CI 0.11–0.90, p = 0.031 and 0.53, 0.28–0.99, p = 0.046, respectively). Preconceptional folate supplementation was not significantly associated with the risk of spontaneous preterm birth beyond 32 wk. The association between shorter duration (<1 y) of preconceptional folate supplementation and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth was not significant after adjustment for maternal characteristics. However, the risk of spontaneous preterm birth decreased with the duration of preconceptional folate supplementation (test for trend of survivor functions, p = 0.01) and was the lowest in women who used folate supplementation for 1 y or longer. There was also no significant association with other complications of pregnancy studied after adjustment for maternal characteristics.
Conclusions
Preconceptional folate supplementation is associated with a 50%–70% reduction in the incidence of early spontaneous preterm birth. The risk of early spontaneous preterm birth is inversely proportional to the duration of preconceptional folate supplementation. Preconceptional folate supplementation was specifically related to early spontaneous preterm birth and not associated with other complications of pregnancy.
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks, but sometimes the new family member arrives early. Every year, half a million babies in the United States (12.5% of all babies) are born prematurely (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy). Sadly, premature babies are more likely to die than full-term babies and many have short- and/or long-term health problems. Premature babies often have breathing problems, they are susceptible to life-threatening infections, and they are more likely to have learning and developmental disabilities than those born on time. The severity of these health problems depends on the degree of prematurity—preterm babies born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy rarely develop severe disabilities, but a quarter of babies born before 28 weeks of pregnancy develop serious lasting disabilities and half have learning and behavioral problems. Although doctors have identified some risk factors for early delivery (for example, smoking), it is impossible to predict who will have an early birth and there is no effective way to prevent preterm births.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some researchers think that folate supplements may prevent preterm births. Folate (folic acid), a vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and dried beans, helps to prevent neural tube birth defects. Consequently, women are encouraged to take folic acid supplements throughout (and preferably before) pregnancy and many governments now mandate that bread, pasta, and other grain products be fortified with folic acid to help women get sufficient folate. There is some evidence that women who deliver early have less folate in their blood than women who deliver at term. Furthermore, folate supplementation during pregnancy has increased the length of pregnancy in some but not all clinical trials. A possible explanation for these mixed results is that the duration of pregnancy reflects conditions in the earliest stages of pregnancy or before conception and that folate supplementation needs to start before conception to reduce the risk of preterm birth. In this study, the researchers test this idea by analyzing data collected from nearly 35,000 pregnant women enrolled in a study that was originally designed to investigate screening for Down's syndrome.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
During the first three months of their pregnancy, the women were asked whether they had taken folate supplements before conception. The duration of each pregnancy was estimated from ultrasound measurements taken early in the pregnancy and from the time of delivery. During the study, 1,658 women had spontaneous preterm deliveries before 37 weeks and 160 delivered before 32 weeks. After allowing for other maternal characteristics that might have affected the likelihood of preterm delivery, the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery between 20 and 28 weeks was 70% lower in women who took folate supplements for more than a year before becoming pregnant than in women who didn't take a supplement. Long-term folate supplementation also reduced the risk of preterm delivery between 28 and 32 weeks by 50% but did not affect the risk of preterm birth beyond 32 weeks. Folate supplementation for less than a year before conception did not reduce the risk of preterm birth, and folate supplementation was not associated with any other complications of pregnancy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that folate supplementation for a year or more before conception is associated with a 50%–70% decrease in early (but not late) spontaneous preterm births and that the longer a woman takes folate supplements before becoming pregnant, the lower her risk of a preterm birth. Although the researchers allowed for maternal characteristics that might have affected the duration of pregnancy, it is possible that folate supplementation may not be responsible for the reduction in preterm birth risk seen in this study. For example, taking folate supplements may be a marker of healthy behavior and the women taking the supplements might have been doing something else that was reducing their risk of preterm birth. However, despite this and other limitations of this study, these findings suggest that long-term folate supplementation before conception is worth investigating further as a potential way to prevent preterm births.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000061.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Nicholas Fisk
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on premature babies (in English and Spanish); MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provides information on preterm labor and birth
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth and on folic acid (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US Office of Dietary Supplements has a fact sheet on folate
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000061
PMCID: PMC2671168  PMID: 19434228
5.  Neural Tube Defects and Maternal Folate Intake Among Pregnancies Conceived After Folic Acid Fortification in the United States 
Rates of neural tube defects have decreased since folic acid fortification of the food supply in the United States. The authors’ objective was to evaluate the associations between neural tube defects and maternal folic acid intake among pregnancies conceived after fortification. This is a multicenter, case-control study that uses data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1998–2003. Logistic regression was used to compute crude and adjusted odds ratios between cases and controls assessing maternal periconceptional use of folic acid and intake of dietary folic acid. Among 180 anencephalic cases, 385 spina bifida cases, and 3, 963 controls, 21.1%, 25.2%, and 26.1%, respectively, reported periconceptional use of folic acid supplements. Periconceptional supplement use did not reduce the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect. Maternal intake of dietary folate was not significantly associated with neural tube defects. In this study conducted among pregnancies conceived after mandatory folic acid fortification, the authors found little evidence of an association between neural tube defects and maternal folic acid intake. A possible explanation is that folic acid fortification reduced the occurrence of folic acid-sensitive neural tube defects. Further investigation is warranted to possibly identify women who remain at increased risk of preventable neural tube defects.
doi:10.1093/aje/kwn331
PMCID: PMC3139973  PMID: 18953063
folic acid; neural tube defects
6.  A comprehensive evaluation of food fortification with folic acid for the primary prevention of neural tube defects 
Background
Periconceptional use of vitamin supplements containing folic acid reduces the risk of a neural tube defect (NTD). In November 1998, food fortification with folic acid was mandated in Canada, as a public health strategy to increase the folic acid intake of all women of childbearing age. We undertook a comprehensive population based study in Newfoundland to assess the benefits and possible adverse effects of this intervention.
Methods
This study was carried out in women aged 19–44 years and in seniors from November 1997 to March 1998, and from November 2000 to March 2001. The evaluation was comprised of four components: I) Determination of rates of NTDs; II) Dietary assessment; III) Blood analysis; IV) Assessment of knowledge and use of folic acid supplements.
Results
The annual rates of NTDs in Newfoundland varied greatly between 1976 and 1997, with a mean rate of 3.40 per 1,000 births. There was no significant change in the average rates between 1991–93 and 1994–97 (relative risk [RR] 1.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.76–1.34). The rates of NTDs fell by 78% (95% CI 65%–86%) after the implementation of folic acid fortification, from an average of 4.36 per 1,000 births during 1991–1997 to 0.96 per 1,000 births during 1998–2001 (RR 0.22, 95% CI 0.14–0.35). The average dietary intake of folic acid due to fortification was 70 μg/day in women aged 19–44 years and 74 μg/day in seniors. There were significant increases in serum and RBC folate levels for women and seniors after mandatory fortification. Among seniors, there were no significant changes in indices typical of vitamin B12 deficiencies, and no evidence of improved folate status masking haematological manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency. The proportion of women aged 19–44 years taking a vitamin supplement containing folic acid increased from 17% to 28%.
Conclusions
Based on these findings, mandatory food fortification in Canada should continue at the current levels. Public education regarding folic acid supplement use by women of childbearing age should also continue.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-4-20
PMCID: PMC524178  PMID: 15450123
7.  Concentrations of blood folate in Brazilian studies prior to and after fortification of wheat and cornmeal (maize flour) with folic acid: a review 
Background
In July 2004, the Brazilian Ministry of Health through the National Health Surveillance Agency made the fortification of wheat flour and cornmeal (maize flour) with iron and folic acid mandatory, with the intention of reducing the rate of diseases such as neural tube defects.
Objective
The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of the folic acid fortified wheat flour and cornmeal on serum and red blood cell folate levels and on the reduction of neural tube defects in different Brazilian studies.
Methods
In order to compare folate concentrations in the Brazilian population prior to and following the implementation of mandatory fortification of wheat and cornmeal, studies that involved blood draws between January 1997 and May 2004 (pre-fortification period), and from June 2004 to the present (post-fortification period) were chosen. The data search included PubMed and Scopus databases as well as the Brazilian Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations. The following keywords were employed for the query: folate, folic acid, fortification, Brazil, healthy population, the elderly, children and pregnant women.
Results
A total of 47 Brazilian studies were selected; 26 from the pre-fortification period and 22 after the fortification implementation. The studies were classified according to the cohort investigated (pregnant women, children, adolescents, adults and the elderly). After the implementation of flour fortification with folic acid in Brazil, serum folate concentrations increased in healthy populations (57% in children and adolescents and 174% in adults), and the incidence of neural tube defects dropped.
Conclusion
Folic acid fortification of wheat flour and cornmeal increased the blood folate concentrations and reduced the incidence of neural tube defects.
doi:10.1016/j.bjhh.2014.03.018
PMCID: PMC4207926  PMID: 25031167
Adult; Blood; Brazil; Food; fortification; Folic acid
8.  Human Folate Bioavailability  
Nutrients  2011;3(4):475-490.
The vitamin folate is recognized as beneficial health-wise in the prevention of neural tube defects, anemia, cardiovascular diseases, poor cognitive performance, and some forms of cancer. However, suboptimal dietary folate intake has been reported in a number of countries. Several national health authorities have therefore introduced mandatory food fortification with synthetic folic acid, which is considered a convenient fortificant, being cost-efficient in production, more stable than natural food folate, and superior in terms of bioavailability and bioefficacy. Other countries have decided against fortification due to the ambiguous role of synthetic folic acid regarding promotion of subclinical cancers and other adverse health effects. This paper reviews recent studies on folate bioavailability after intervention with folate from food. Our conclusions were that limited folate bioavailability data are available for vegetables, fruits, cereal products, and fortified foods, and that it is difficult to evaluate the bioavailability of food folate or whether intervention with food folate improves folate status. We recommend revising the classical approach of using folic acid as a reference dose for estimating the plasma kinetics and relative bioavailability of food folate.
doi:10.3390/nu3040475
PMCID: PMC3257685  PMID: 22254106
folate; folic acid; human bioavailability; intervention trials; post-dose plasma kinetics
9.  Cancer risk with folic acid supplements: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000653.
Objective
To explore if there is an increased cancer risk associated with folic acid supplements given orally.
Design
Systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies of folic acid supplementation in humans reporting cancer incidence and/or cancer mortality. Studies on folic acid fortification of foods were not included.
Data sources
Cochrane Library, Medline, Embase and Centre of Reviews and Dissemination, clinical trial registries and hand-searching of key journals.
Results
From 4104 potential references, 19 studies contributed data to our meta-analyses, including 12 randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Meta-analysis of the 10 RCTs reporting overall cancer incidence (N=38 233) gave an RR of developing cancer in patients randomised to folic acid supplements of 1.07 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.14) compared to controls. Overall cancer incidence was not reported in the seven observational studies. Meta-analyses of six RCTs reporting prostate cancer incidence showed an RR of prostate cancer of 1.24 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.49) for the men receiving folic acid compared to controls. No significant difference in cancer incidence was shown between groups receiving folic acid and placebo/control group, for any other cancer type. Total cancer mortality was reported in six RCTs, and a meta-analysis of these did not show any significant difference in cancer mortality in folic acid supplemented groups compared to controls (RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.30). None of the observational studies addressed mortality.
Conclusions
A meta-analysis of 10 RCTs showed a borderline significant increase in frequency of overall cancer in the folic acid group compared to controls. Overall cancer incidence was not reported in the seven observational studies. Prostate cancer was the only cancer type found to be increased after folic acid supplementation (meta-analyses of six RCTs). Prospective studies of cancer development in populations where food is fortified with folic acid could indicate whether fortification similar to supplementation moderately increases prostate cancer risk.
Article summary
Article focus
The present systematic review aims to explore if there is an increased cancer risk associated with folic acid supplements given orally.
Key messages
Meta-analysis of 10 RCTs showed no benefit but a borderline significant increase in incidence of overall cancer in the folic acid group compared to controls. Overall cancer incidence was not reported in the seven observational studies. When analysing site-specific cancers, prostate cancer was the only cancer type where an increase in risk was shown for folic acid supplements.
The current study does not show any evidence for augmented cancer risk for fertile women who are recommended folic acid periconceptionally in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This systematic review has been performed with a thorough systematic search; and data extraction and quality assessment have been performed by at least two independent persons.
The limited time of follow-up of most RCTs is a limitation of our review because the time frame for cancer development might exceed the follow-up time in many RCTs.
The highly selected population in which most of the studies were conducted limits the applicability to the general population and women of childbearing age taking folic acid periconceptionally.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000653
PMCID: PMC3278486  PMID: 22240654
10.  Estimates of Total Dietary Folic Acid Intake in the Australian Population Following Mandatory Folic Acid Fortification of Bread 
Mandatory folic acid fortification of wheat flour for making bread was implemented in Australia in September 2009, to improve the dietary folate status of women of child-bearing age, and help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the population. This paper presents estimates of folic acid intake in the target population and other subgroups of the Australian population following implementation of the mandatory folic acid fortification standard. In June/July 2010 one hundred samples from seven bread categories were purchased from around the country and individually analysed for the amount of folic acid they contained. A modification to the triple enzyme microbiological method was used to measure folic acid in the individual bread samples. The folic acid analytical values together with national food consumption data were used to generate estimates of the population's folic acid intake from fortified foods. Food Standards Australia New Zealand's (FSANZ) custom-built dietary modelling program (DIAMOND) was used for the estimates. The mean amount of folic acid found in white bread was 200 μg/100 g which demonstrated that folic-acid-fortified wheat flour was used to bake the bread. The intake estimates indicated an increase in mean folic acid intake of 159 μg per day for the target group. Other sub-groups of the population also showed increases in estimated mean daily intake of folic acid.
doi:10.1155/2012/492353
PMCID: PMC3432557  PMID: 22957218
11.  How well do blood folate concentrations predict dietary folate intakes in a sample of Canadian lactating women exposed to high levels of folate? An observational study 
Background
In 1998, mandatory folic acid fortification of white flour and select cereal grain products was implemented in Canada with the intention to increase dietary folate intakes of reproducing women. Folic acid fortification has produced a dramatic increase in blood folate concentrations among reproductive age women, and a reduction in neural tube defect (NTD)-affected pregnancies. In response to improved blood folate concentrations, many health care professionals are asking whether a folic acid supplement is necessary for NTD prevention among women with high blood folate values, and how reliably high RBC folate concentrations predict folate intakes shown in randomized controlled trials to be protective against NTDs. The objective of this study was to determine how predictive blood folate concentrations and folate intakes are of each other in a sample of well-educated lactating Canadian women exposed to high levels of synthetic folate.
Methods
The relationship between blood folate concentrations and dietary folate intakes, determined by weighed food records, were assessed in a sample of predominantly university-educated lactating women (32 ± 4 yr) at 4-(n = 53) and 16-wk postpartum (n = 55).
Results
Median blood folate concentrations of all participants were well above plasma and RBC folate cut-off levels indicative of deficiency (6.7 and 317 nmol/L, respectively) and all, except for 2 subjects, were above the cut-off for NTD-risk reduction (>906 nmol/L). Only modest associations existed between total folate intakes and plasma (r = 0.46, P < 0.001) and RBC (r = 0.36, P < 0.01) folate concentrations at 16-wk postpartum. Plasma and RBC folate values at 16-wk postpartum correctly identified the quartile of folate intake of only 26 of 55 (47%) and 18 of 55 (33%) of subjects, respectively. The mean RBC folate concentration of women consuming 151–410 μg/d of synthetic folate (2nd quartile of intake) did not differ from that of women consuming >410 μg/d (3rd and 4th quartile).
Conclusion
Folate intakes, estimated by food composition tables, and blood folate concentrations are not predictive of each other in Canadian lactating women exposed to high levels of folate. Synthetic intakes > 151–410 μg/d in these women produced little additional benefit in terms of maximizing RBC content. More studies are needed to examine the relationship between blood folate concentration and NTD risk. Until data from such studies are available, women planning a pregnancy should continue to consume a daily folic acid supplement of 400 μg.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-7-25
PMCID: PMC2231404  PMID: 17961229
12.  Folic acid and prevention of neural tube defects 
Canadian Family Physician  2008;54(1):36-38.
QUESTION Now that flour and pasta have been fortified with folic acid in Canada, do I still need to recommend folic acid supplements to my patients who are of child-bearing age? If I should recommend supplements, when should I recommend them, and what is an appropriate dose?
ANSWER Non-pregnant women should consume 400 μg of folic acid daily, and pregnant women should consume 600 μg of folic acid daily. Mean intakes of folate in Canada before fortification were around 200 μg/d or less. Fortification increased intake of folic acid by up to 100 μg/d. You should discuss the importance of folic acid with your patients who are planning pregnancy; it is recommended that a folic acid supplement or prenatal multivitamin containing at least 400 μg of folic acid be consumed daily. The upper limit for folic acid is 1 mg/d. Women in intermediate- to high-risk categories for neural tube defects, such as a previous neural tube defect–affected pregnancy, should take 4 to 5 mg of folic acid daily.
PMCID: PMC2329900  PMID: 18208952
13.  A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Folic Acid Fortification Policy in the United States 
Public health nutrition  2008;12(4):10.1017/S1368980008002565.
Objective
To quantify the health and economic outcomes associated with changes in folic acid consumption following fortification of enriched grain products in the United States.
Design
Cost-effectiveness analysis.
Setting
Annual burden of disease, quality-adjusted-life-years (QALYs), and costs were projected for four steady-state strategies: no fortification or fortifying with 140, 350, or 700 micrograms (mcg) folic acid per 100 grams (g) enriched grain. The analysis considered four health outcomes: neural tube defects (NTDs); myocardial infarctions (MIs); colon cancers; and B-12 deficiency maskings.
Subjects
U.S. adult population subgroups defined by age, gender, and race/ethnicity, with folate intake distributions from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (1988-1992 and 1999-2000), and reference sources for disease incidence, utility, and economic estimates.
Results
The greatest benefits from fortification were predicted in MI prevention, with 16,862 and 88,172 cases averted per year in steady state for the 140-mcg and 700-mcg fortification levels, respectively. These projections were 6,261 and 38,805 for colon cancer and 182 and 1,423 for NTDs, while 15 to 820 additional B-12 cases were predicted. Compared with no fortification, all post-fortification strategies provided QALY gains and cost savings for all subgroups, with predicted population benefits of 266,649 QALYs gained and $3.6 billion saved in the long run by changing the fortification level from 140-mcg/100-g enriched grain to 700-mcg/100-g.
Conclusions
This study indicates that the health and economic gains of folic acid fortification far outweigh the losses for the U.S. population, and that increasing the level of fortification deserves further consideration to maximize net gains.
doi:10.1017/S1368980008002565
PMCID: PMC3856722  PMID: 18590584
Cost-effectiveness analysis; folic acid fortification; prenatal and maternal nutrition; health policy
14.  Reduced expression of folate transporters in kidney of a rat model of folate oversupplementation 
Genes & Nutrition  2013;9(1):369.
Folic acid is the key one-carbon donor required for de novo nucleotide and methionine synthesis. Its deficiency is associated with megaloblastic anemia, cancer and various complications of pregnancy. However, its supplementation results in reduction of neural tube defects and prevention of several types of cancer. The intake of folic acid from fortified food together with the use of nutritional supplements creates a state of folate oversupplementation. Fortification of foods is occurring worldwide with little knowledge of the potential safety and physiologic consequences of intake of such high doses of folic acid. So, we planned to examine the effects of acute and chronic folate oversupplementation on the physiology of renal folate transport in rats. Male Wistar rats were procured and divided into two groups. Rats in group I were given semisynthetic diets containing 2 mg folic acid/kg diet (control) and those in group II were given folate-oversupplemented rat diet, i.e., 20 mg folic acid/kg diet (oversupplemented). Six animals from group I and group II received the treatment for 10 days (acute treatment) and remaining six for 60 days (chronic treatment). In acute folate-oversupplemented rats, 5-[14C]-methyltetrahydrofolate uptake was found to be significantly reduced, as compared to chronic folate-oversupplemented and control rats. This reduction in uptake was associated with a significant decrease in the mRNA and protein levels of the folate transporters. Results of the present investigation showed that acute oversupplementation led to a specific and significant down-regulation of renal folate uptake process mediated via transcriptional and translational regulatory mechanism(s).
doi:10.1007/s12263-013-0369-z
PMCID: PMC3896635  PMID: 24306960
Folate; Folate transport; FBP; PCFT; RFC; Folate oversupplementation
15.  Clinical utility of folate-containing oral contraceptives 
Folate is a generic term for a water-soluble B-complex vitamin which plays an important role in protein synthesis and metabolism and other processes related to cell multiplication and tissue growth. Pregnant and lactating women are at increased risk of folic acid deficiency because generally their dietary folate is insufficient to meet their physiological requirements and the metabolic demands of the growing fetus. The evidence pertaining to the reduction of the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) due to folate is so compelling that supplementation with 400 μg of folic acid to all women trying to conceive until 12 weeks of pregnancy has been recommended by every relevant authority. A recent Cochrane review has also found protective effects of folate supplementation in occurrence and reoccurrence of NTDs. Despite food fortification and targeted public health campaigns promoting folic acid supplementation, 4,300,000 new cases occur each year worldwide resulting in an estimated 41,000 deaths and 2.3 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYS). This article will review the burden and risk factors of NTDS, and the role of folate in preventing NTDs. It will also describe different modes of supplementing folate and the newer evidence of the effectiveness of adding folate in oral contraceptives for raising serum and red blood cell folate levels.
doi:10.2147/IJWH.S18611
PMCID: PMC3346209  PMID: 22570577
folate; folate-containing oral contraceptives; oral contraceptives; contraceptives
16.  Molecular mechanisms underlying the potentially adverse effects of folate 
The importance of proper consumption of dietary folate for human health has been highlighted by an extensive number of publications over several decades. Fortification of grain products with folic acid was initiated with the specific intent to prevent neural tube defects, and the scope of this endeavor is unique in that its target population (women of the periconceptional period) is many times smaller than the population it affects (everyone who ingests fortified grain products). Folate fortification has been wildly successful in terms of its goal; since its inception, the incidence of neural tube defects has markedly decreased. In the wake of this public health triumph, it is important to catalogue both the serendipitous benefits and potential side effects of folic acid supplementation. The vitamin is generally regarded as a harmless nutrient based on studies evaluating the safe upper limits of folate intake. In recent years, however, a concern has been raised with respect to a potential downside to folate supplementation; namely, its proposed ability to enhance proliferation of malignant tumors. The current review summarizes the available literature on the effects of folate supplementation and the molecular mechanisms by which high doses of folate may have negative consequences on human health, especially with regard to cancer.
doi:10.1515/cclm-2012-0561
PMCID: PMC4317288  PMID: 23241610
cancer; folate; folic acid; folate enzymes; metastasis; molecular mechanisms; dietary supplementation
17.  Maternal Vitamin B12 Status and Risk of Neural Tube Defects in a Population With High Neural Tube Defect Prevalence and No Folic Acid Fortification 
Pediatrics  2009;123(3):917-923.
OBJECTIVE
Folic acid fortification has reduced neural tube defect prevalence by 50% to 70%. It is unlikely that fortification levels will be increased to reduce neural tube defect prevalence further. Therefore, it is important to identify other modifiable risk factors. Vitamin B12 is metabolically related to folate; moreover, previous studies have found low B12 status in mothers of children affected by neural tube defect. Our objective was to quantify the effect of low B12 status on neural tube defect risk in a high-prevalence, unfortified population.
METHODS
We assessed pregnancy vitamin B12 status concentrations in blood samples taken at an average of 15 weeks’ gestation from 3 independent nested case-control groups of Irish women within population-based cohorts, at a time when vitamin supplementation or food fortification was rare. Group 1 blood samples were from 95 women during a neural tube defect–affected pregnancy and 265 control subjects. Group 2 included blood samples from 107 women who had a previous neural tube defect birth but whose current pregnancy was not affected and 414 control subjects. Group 3 samples were from 76 women during an affected pregnancy and 222 control subjects.
RESULTS
Mothers of children affected by neural tube defect had significantly lower B12 status. In all 3 groups those in the lowest B12 quartiles, compared with the highest, had between two and threefold higher adjusted odds ratios for being the mother of a child affected by neural tube defect. Pregnancy blood B12 concentrations of <250 ng/L were associated with the highest risks.
CONCLUSIONS
Deficient or inadequate maternal vitamin B12 status is associated with a significantly increased risk for neural tube defects. We suggest that women have vitamin B12 levels of >300 ng/L (221 pmol/L) before becoming pregnant. Improving B12 status beyond this level may afford a further reduction in risk, but this is uncertain.
doi:10.1542/peds.2008-1173
PMCID: PMC4161975  PMID: 19255021
vitamin B12; cobalamin; neural tube defects; folic acid fortification; folate
18.  Folate Status of Reproductive Age Women and Neural Tube Defect Risk: The Effect of Long-Term Folic Acid Supplementation at Doses of 140 µg and 400 µg per Day 
Nutrients  2011;3(1):49-62.
Primary prevention of most folate-responsive neural tube defects (NTDs) may not require 400 μg folic acid/day but may be achieved by attaining a high maternal folate status. Using RBC folate ≥906 nmol/L as a marker for NTD risk reduction, the study aimed to determine the change in blood folate concentrations in reproductive age women in response to long-term folic acid supplementation at 400 µg/day and 140 µg/day (dose designed to mimic the average daily folic acid intake received from New Zealand’s proposed mandatory bread fortification program). Participants were randomly assigned to a daily folic acid supplement of 140 µg (n = 49), 400 µg (n = 48) or placebo (n = 47) for 40 weeks. RBC folate concentrations were measured at baseline, and after 6, 12, 29 and 40 weeks. At 40 weeks, the overall prevalence of having a RBC folate <906 nmol/L decreased to 18% and 35% in the 400 µg and 140 µg groups, respectively, while remaining relatively unchanged at 58% in the placebo group. After 40 weeks, there was no evidence of a difference in RBC folate between the two treatment groups (P = 0.340), nor was there evidence of a difference in the odds of a RBC folate <906 nmol/L (P = 0.078). In conclusion, the average daily intake of folic acid received from the proposed fortification program would increase RBC folate concentrations in reproductive age women to levels associated with a low risk of NTDs.
doi:10.3390/nu3010049
PMCID: PMC3257734  PMID: 22254076
neural tube defects; blood folate status; folic acid fortification; supplementation
19.  Micronutrient fortification of food and its impact on woman and child health: a systematic review 
Systematic Reviews  2013;2:67.
Background
Vitamins and minerals are essential for growth and metabolism. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 billion people are deficient in key vitamins and minerals. Groups most vulnerable to these micronutrient deficiencies are pregnant and lactating women and young children, given their increased demands. Food fortification is one of the strategies that has been used safely and effectively to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Methods
A comprehensive search was done to identify all available evidence for the impact of fortification interventions. Studies were included if food was fortified with a single, dual or multiple micronutrients and impact of fortification was analyzed on the health outcomes and relevant biochemical indicators of women and children. We performed a meta-analysis of outcomes using Review Manager Software version 5.1.
Results
Our systematic review identified 201 studies that we reviewed for outcomes of relevance. Fortification for children showed significant impacts on increasing serum micronutrient concentrations. Hematologic markers also improved, including hemoglobin concentrations, which showed a significant rise when food was fortified with vitamin A, iron and multiple micronutrients. Fortification with zinc had no significant adverse impact on hemoglobin levels. Multiple micronutrient fortification showed non-significant impacts on height for age, weight for age and weight for height Z-scores, although they showed positive trends. The results for fortification in women showed that calcium and vitamin D fortification had significant impacts in the post-menopausal age group. Iron fortification led to a significant increase in serum ferritin and hemoglobin levels in women of reproductive age and pregnant women. Folate fortification significantly reduced the incidence of congenital abnormalities like neural tube defects without increasing the incidence of twinning. The number of studies pooled for zinc and multiple micronutrients for women were few, though the evidence suggested benefit. There was a dearth of evidence for the impact of fortification strategies on morbidity and mortality outcomes in women and children.
Conclusion
Fortification is potentially an effective strategy but evidence from the developing world is scarce. Programs need to assess the direct impact of fortification on morbidity and mortality.
doi:10.1186/2046-4053-2-67
PMCID: PMC3765883  PMID: 23971426
Child; Food; Fortification; Nutrition; Supplementation; Women
20.  Knowledge and periconceptional use of folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects in ethnic communities in the United Kingdom: Systematic review and meta-analysis 
BACKGROUND: It is widely accepted that periconceptional supplementation with folic acid can prevent a significant proportion of neural tube defects (NTDs). The present study evaluated how folic acid knowledge and periconceptional use for NTD prevention varies by ethnicity in the United Kingdom (U.K.).
METHODS: A literature search was conducted to identify studies that included assessment of folic acid knowledge or use in U.K. women of different ethnicities. Only research and referenced sources published after 1991, the year of the landmark Medical Research Council’s Vitamin Study, were included. A meta-analysis was performed of studies that assessed preconceptional folic acid use in Caucasians and non-Caucasians.
RESULTS: Five studies met the inclusion criteria for assessment of knowledge and/or use of folic acid supplements in U.K. women including non-Caucasians. The available evidence indicates that South Asians specifically have less knowledge and lower periconceptional use of folic acid than Caucasians; one study found that West Indian and African women also had lower folic acid uptake. A synthesis of results from three of the studies, in a meta-analysis, shows that Caucasians are almost three times more likely to take folic acid before conception than non-Caucasians.
CONCLUSION: From the limited evidence available, U.K. women of non-Caucasian ethnicity appear to have less knowledge and a lower uptake of folic acid supplementation than Caucasians during the periconceptional period. Implementing targeted, innovative education campaigns together with a mandatory fortification policy, including the fortification of ethnic minority foods, will be required for maximum prevention of folic acid–preventable NTDs across different ethnic groups. Birth Defects Research (Part A) 97:444–451, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
doi:10.1002/bdra.23154
PMCID: PMC3798113  PMID: 23873812
neural tube defects; ethnicity; folic acid; prevention; preconception; periconception
21.  Prevention of Neural Tube Defects: A Cross-Sectional Study of the Uptake of Folic Acid Supplementation in Nearly Half a Million Women 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89354.
Background
Taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy to reduce the risk of a neural tube defect (NTD) is especially important in countries without universal folic acid fortification. The extent of folic acid supplementation among women who had antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome and NTDs at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London between 1999 and 2012 was assessed.
Methods and Findings
466,860 women screened provided details on folic acid supplementation. The proportion of women who took folic acid supplements before pregnancy was determined according to year and characteristics of the women. The proportion of women taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy declined from 35% (95% CI 34%–35%) in 1999–2001 to 31% (30%–31%) in 2011–2012. 6% (5%–6%) of women aged under 20 took folic acid supplements before pregnancy compared with 40% of women aged between 35 and 39. Non-Caucasian women were less likely to take folic acid supplements before pregnancy than Caucasian women; Afro-Caribbean 17% (16%–17%), Oriental 25% (24%–25%) and South Asian 20% (20%–21%) compared with 35% (35%–35%) for Caucasian women. 51% (48%–55%) of women who previously had an NTD pregnancy took folic acid supplements before the current pregnancy.
Conclusions
The policy of folic acid supplementation is failing and has led to health inequalities. This study demonstrates the need to fortify flour and other cereal grain with folic acid in all countries of the world.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089354
PMCID: PMC3929694  PMID: 24586711
22.  Primary prevention of neural-tube defects and some other congenital abnormalities by folic acid and multivitamins: history, missed opportunity and tasks 
The history of intervention trials of periconception folic acid with multivitamin and folic acid supplementation in women has shown a recent breakthrough in the primary prevention of structural birth defects, namely neural-tube defects and some other congenital abnormalities. Recently, some studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this new method in reducing congenital abnormalities with specific origin; for example, in the offspring of diabetic and epileptic mothers, and in pregnancy with high fever. The benefits and drawbacks of four possible uses of periconception folate/folic acid and multivitamin supplementation are discussed: we believe there has been a missed opportunity to implement this preventive approach in medical practice. The four methods are as follows: (i) dietary intake of folate and other vitamins, (ii) periconception folic acid/multivitamin supplementation, (iii) food fortification with folic acid, and (iv) the combination of oral contraceptives with 6S-5-methytetrahydrofolate (‘folate’).
doi:10.1177/2042098611411358
PMCID: PMC4110861  PMID: 25083211
cardiovascular malformations; contraception; folic acid; multivitamins; neural-tube defects; prevention
23.  Folic acid supplementation, dietary folate intake during pregnancy and risk for spontaneous preterm delivery: a prospective observational cohort study 
Background
Health authorities in numerous countries recommend periconceptional folic acid to pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects. The objective of this study was to examine the association of folic acid supplementation during different periods of pregnancy and of dietary folate intake with the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery (PTD).
Methods
The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study is a population-based prospective cohort study. A total of 65,668 women with singleton pregnancies resulting in live births in 1999–2009 were included. Folic acid supplementation was self-reported from 26 weeks before pregnancy until week 24 during pregnancy. At gestational week 22, the women completed a food frequency questionnaire, which allowed the calculation of their average total folate intake from foods and supplements for the first 4–5 months of pregnancy. Spontaneous PTD was defined as the spontaneous onset of delivery between weeks 22+0 and 36+6 (n = 1,628).
Results
The median total folate intake was 266 μg/d (interquartile range IQR 154–543) in the overall population and 540 μg/d (IQR 369–651) in the supplement users. Eighty-three percent reported any folic acid supplementation from <8 weeks before to 24 weeks after conception while 42% initiated folic acid supplementation before their pregnancy. Cox regression analysis showed that the amount of folate intake from the diet (hazard ratio HR 1.16; confidence interval CI 0.65-2.08) and from the folic acid supplements (HR 1.04; CI 0.95-1.13) was not significantly associated with the risk of PTD. The initiation of folic acid supplementation more than 8 weeks before conception was associated with an increased risk for PTD (HR 1.19; CI 1.05-1.34) compared to no folic acid supplementation pre-conception. There was no significant association with PTD when supplementation was initiated within 8 weeks pre-conception (HR 1.01; CI 0.88-1.16). All analyses were adjusted for maternal characteristics and socioeconomic, health and dietary variables.
Conclusions
Our findings do not support a protective effect of dietary folate intake or folic acid supplementation on spontaneous PTD. Pre-conceptional folic acid supplementation starting more than 8 weeks before conception was associated with an increased risk of PTD. These results require further investigation before discussing an expansion of folic acid supplementation guidelines.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-160
PMCID: PMC3751653  PMID: 23937678
Pregnancy; Preterm delivery; Preterm birth; Gestational length; Folate; Folic acid supplementation
24.  Folic acid supplementation, dietary folate intake during pregnancy and risk for spontaneous preterm delivery: a prospective observational cohort study 
Background
Health authorities in numerous countries recommend periconceptional folic acid supplementation to prevent neural tube defects. The objective of this study was to examine the association of dietary folate intake and folic acid supplementation during different periods of pregnancy with the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery (PTD).
Methods
The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study is a population-based prospective cohort study. A total of 66,014 women with singleton pregnancies resulting in live births in 2002–2009 were included. Folic acid supplementation was self-reported from 26 weeks before pregnancy until pregnancy week 24. At gestational week 22, the women completed a food frequency questionnaire, which allowed the calculation of their average total folate intake from foods and supplements for the first 4–5 months of pregnancy. Spontaneous PTD was defined as the spontaneous onset of delivery between weeks 22+0 and 36+6 (n = 1,755).
Results
The median total folate intake was 313 μg/d (interquartile range IQR 167–558) in the overall population and 530 μg/d (IQR 355–636) in the supplement users. Eighty-five percent reported any folic acid supplementation from <8 weeks before to 24 weeks after conception while only 44% initiated folic acid supplementation before pregnancy. Cox regression analysis showed that the amount of dietary folate intake (hazard ratio HR 1.00; confidence interval 95% CI 0.61-1.65) and supplemental folate intake (HR 1.00; CI 1.00-1.00) was not significantly associated with the risk of PTD. The initiation of folic acid supplementation more than 8 weeks before conception was associated with an increased risk for spontaneous PTD (HR 1.18; CI 1.05-1.32) compared to no folic acid supplementation preconception. There was no significant association with PTD when supplementation was initiated within 8 weeks preconception (HR 0.99; CI 0.87-1.13). All analyses were adjusted for maternal characteristics and socioeconomic, health and dietary variables.
Conclusions
Our findings do not support a protective effect of dietary folate intake or folic acid supplementation on spontaneous PTD. Preconceptional folic acid supplementation starting more than 8 weeks before conception was associated with an increased risk of spontaneous PTD. These results require further investigation before discussing an expansion of folic acid supplementation guidelines.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12884-014-0375-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12884-014-0375-1
PMCID: PMC4240839  PMID: 25361626
Pregnancy; Preterm delivery; Preterm birth; Gestational length; Folate; Folic acid supplementation
25.  Incidence of open neural tube defects in Nova Scotia after folic acid fortification 
Background
With the goal of preventing open neural tube defects (NTDs), recommendations for folic acid supplementation before conception were introduced in Canada in 1994, and by November 1998 Canadian grain products were being fortified with folic acid. We wished to determine whether the annual incidence of open NTDs in Nova Scotia, including those in stillbirths and terminated pregnancies, changed after the introduction of either folic acid supplementation or fortification.
Methods
For the 10-year period from Jan. 1, 1991, to Dec. 31, 2000, we retrospectively extracted the total number of births in Nova Scotia and the number of live births and stillbirths with open NTDs from the Nova Scotia Atlee Perinatal Database as well as the number of terminated pregnancies affected by NTDs from the Fetal Anomaly Database. We determined the total annual incidence of all open NTDs, and of the subgroups spina bifida and anencephaly, per 1000 births in the province during the periods before (1991–1994) and after (1995–1998) folic acid supplementation initiatives were begun but before folic acid fortification of grain products was implemented, and during the periods before (1991–1997) and after (1998–2000) fortification.
Results
In the period after supplementation initiatives were begun but before fortification was implemented, the incidence of open NTDs did not change significantly: the mean annual rate was 2.55 per 1000 births during 1991–1994 and 2.61 per 1000 births during 1995–1997 (relative risk [RR] 1.02, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.77–1.35). After the fortification was implemented the incidence of open NTDs decreased by more than 50%: the mean annual rate was 2.58 per 1000 births during 1991–1997 and 1.17 per 1000 births during 1998–2000 (relative risk 0.46, 95% CI 0.32–0.66).
Interpretation
The recommendations for folic acid supplementation alone did not appear to succeed in reducing the incidence of open NTDs in Nova Scotia, whereas the fortification of grain products with folic acid did result in a significant reduction in the incidence.
PMCID: PMC117468  PMID: 12186168

Results 1-25 (1059790)