Fortification of Table Salt With Folic Acid Can Help Prevent Severe Birth Defects

In Education

In a groundbreaking field study, a team of international researchers, including experts from the University of Central Florida and Emory University, has demonstrated that using iodized table salt fortified with folic acid can effectively prevent severe birth defects.

Fortification of food with folic acid prevent stillbirths

The significance of ensuring sufficient folic acid intake for women before and during pregnancy to prevent conditions like spina bifida and anencephaly has long been recognized. The World Health Organization recommends daily folic acid supplementation of 400 micrograms for women attempting to conceive and during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Mandatory fortification of staple foods with folic acid is endorsed as a cost-effective and safe method to combat birth defects like spina bifida. Despite a World Health Assembly resolution in May 2023 recommending fortification of food with folic acid, about 260,000 births globally are still affected annually, leading to numerous stillbirths and infant deaths due to low maternal folate levels.

The recent study published in JAMA Network Open proposed a solution to the challenge of fortifying staple grains with folic acid in countries where implementation has been difficult. The study suggests that mixing folic acid with commercially available iodized table salt, according to average daily salt consumption, can significantly increase serum folate levels among individuals. This method proved effective in preventing conditions like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Folic acid absorption through fortification effective

The study led by Jogi Pattisapu, MD, from UCF’s College of Medicine, demonstrated that folic acid absorption through salt fortification is effective. This finding suggests that countries without fortification programs could easily implement salt fortification to provide the necessary folic acid, which can save lives.

The mandatory food fortification in the US has global implications, particularly for countries with successful salt iodization programs. Vijaya Kancherla, an associate professor at Rollins, emphasizes the importance of preventing birth defects like spina bifida globally, highlighting the lack of accessible care in low- and middle-income nations.

Folic acid fortification of iodized salt can prevent folate deficiency, which causes spina bifida, according to Dr. Godfrey Oakley Jr., Director of the Center for Spina Bifida Prevention at Rollins.

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