In a new study, researchers reviewed data from nearly 6 million births in Canada. The births occurred between 1990 and 2011. Folic acid food fortification became mandatory for all types of flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal in 1998 in Canada.
During the study period, there was an 11% decline in rates of congenital heart defects overall. But decreases weren’t seen in all types of heart defects present at birth.
The biggest declines – between 15 and 27% - were in structural defects of the heart, such as holes in the wall of the heart or a narrowing of the major artery (the aorta) that carries blood to the body form the heart, the investigators found.
But, there was no reduction in heart defects at birth caused by an abnormality in the number of an infant’s chromosomes, the finding showed.
An estimated 650,000 to 1.3 million children and adults in the United States have congenital heart disease, the researchers said. A hole in the wall of the one of the heart’s ventricles is the most common type of defect in children. These defects account for nearly 620,000 of the cases, the researchers added.
Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can cause a number of complications, these include anemia and neural tube defects (such as spina bifida, an abnormality of the spine and spinal cord), the researchers explained.
Women who are likely to get pregnant should start taking folic acid supplements before conceiving because they may not get enough folic acid from their diet alone, said study senior author Dr. K.S. Joseph. He’s a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Joseph added that the study findings likely apply to the U.S. population as well. That’s because the United States began fortifying foods with folic acid around the same time as Canada, he said.
The study was published Aug. 29 in the journal Circulation.
Unfortunately, fortifying foods with folic acid became necessary because the refinement of grains and cereals strips the naturally occurring folic acid from the kernel. As Dr. Joseph points out, eating foods fortified with folic acid may not be enough and all women that may become pregnant should supplement folic acid.
I take it a step further recommending supplementation with 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid) rather than plane folic acid or folate. 5-MTHF is bioavailable, ready to be used to make new cells without conversion in the lining of the small intestine.
Over a third of the population carries impaired genetic snippets for the conversion of folic acid. In 8% of the population the defect is homozygous and conversion cannot occur. These patients require supplementation of 5-MTHF or they will be anemic. Twenty-five percent of the population carries a heterozygous defect and may have impaired conversion about 70% of the time. Unfortunately, that impaired conversion seems to occur with the body is stressed by disease, overwork, lack of sleep, pregnancy, or any of the other stressors common to today’s lifestyle.
The Bottom Line:
Please supplement folic acid in the form of 5-MTHF. If you really want to know if you have an impaired genetic snippet send your salivary sample to 23ANDME for analysis. Then send me a link to your account and I review the raw data.
Source: August 29, 2016 National Institutes of Health