Fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid could prevent birth defects, March of Dimes says

Fortifying corn masa flour with the B vitamin folic acid could prevent more serious birth defects of the brain and spine in the Hispanic community, according to a March of Dimes commentary published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Fortification of enriched cereal grains such as bread and pasta with was mandated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) beginning in 1998. Since then, the rate of birth defects of the and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs), which include spina bifida and anencephaly, has decreased by nearly one-third.

However, despite this success, about 3,000 pregnancies in the United States still are affected by NTDs annually and Hispanics have the highest rate when compared to other race or ethnic groups.

" of cereal grains with folic in 1998 is a public health success story. Adding this to corn masa flour will build on that initiative and begin to address the disparities in these birth defects," said Alan R. Fleischman, MD, March of Dimes medical director and lead author of the commentary. "Despite the fact that fortification has given thousands of babies a healthy start in life, it is imperative we address this serious health problem in the Hispanic community. Public health officials and businesses must work together to expand the success of folic acid fortification to corn masa and to the Hispanic community in the US. "

Corn masa flour is made from specially treated corn and used to make products common in Latin American diets such as corn tortillas and tamales. Dr. Fleischman writes that by targeting traditional Hispanic food made with corn masa for folic acid fortification, it would be possible to lower the rate of NTDs among Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans. Studies have shown that folic acid works if taken before conception and during early pregnancy.

Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a child with an NTD than non-Hispanic white women, according to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Although the reasons for the disparity is not well understood, Hispanic women have been found to have lower intake of folic acid overall compared to non-Hispanic white women.

In order for corn masa flour products to be fortified with folic acid, approval of the Food and Drug Administration is needed. Many countries in Latin America interested in public health measures known to prevent neural tube defects already fortify their food products with folic acid, including Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico. This safe and effective public health intervention can successfully decrease .

The commentary "Fortification of Masa Flour with Folic Acid in the U.S." was published online today by the .

Related Stories

Folic acid linked to increased cancer rate

date Nov 02, 2007

Two recent commentaries appearing in the November issue of Nutrition Reviews find that the introduction of flour fortified with folic acid into common foods was followed by an increase in colon cancer diagnoses in the U. ...

Britain: Folic acid in bread, flour

date Apr 06, 2006

In a major about-face, a British agency is poised to order that folic acid be added to all bread and flour sold in nation, the Times of London reported.

Folic acid to prevent congenital heart defects

date May 14, 2009

The Canadian policy of fortifying grain products with folic acid has already proved to be effective in preventing neural tube defects. The latest article published in the British Medical Journal by a group of researchers from t ...

Recommended for you

Noise from fireworks threatens young ears

date 14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The Fourth of July weekend is a time for celebrations and beautiful fireworks displays. But, parents do need to take steps to protect their children's ears from loud fireworks, a hearing expert ...

Many new teen drivers 'crash' in simulated driving task

date 14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

Insurer Aetna to buy Humana in $35B deal

date 15 hours ago

Aetna will spend about $35 billion to buy rival Humana and become the latest health insurer bulking up on government business as the industry adjusts to the federal health care overhaul.

Feeling impulsive or frustrated? Take a nap

date 17 hours ago

Taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration, according to a University of Michigan study.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.