Folic Acid-Fortified Foods Help Prevent NTDs
NEW YORKResearchers from St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital Center at Columbia University in New York found folic acid fortification is highly successful in reducing NTDs. The study is published in the March 1 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology (103, 3:474-9, 2004) (www.greenjournal.org).
Researchers studied the maternal serum alpha-getoprotein (MSAFP) results of 61,119 pregnant women. (MSAFP is a prenatal blood test performed in the second trimester to screen for certain birth defects, including spina bifida.) The women were categorized into two main groups: those who became pregnant before food fortification in 1997 and those who became pregnant after, in 2000. Subjects were then divided further into groups of high MSAFP (2.75 MoM to 4.0 MoM) and very high MSAFP (more than 4.0 MoM); overall, the risk of having an NTD-affected fetus was approximately 4.5 percent for a MSAFP value above 2.5 MoM, according to the researchers.
Researchers discovered a 32-percent decrease in MSAFP levels greater than 2.75 MoM, thus reducing the number of women at greater risk of having a NTD-affected baby. The introduction of folic acid fortification has produced a profound decrease in the number of high MSAFP values, reflective of a decreased incidence of neural tube defects. Our results help to validate the decision to fortify food with folic acid, which represents a highly successful public health policy for primary prevention of birth defects, wrote the researchers.