Can Folic acid be the cure to prevent birth defects? 

 

Health ministers across the UK are urging the government to fortify food with Folic acid, to prevent birth defects, as well as the risk of diseases like cancer. 

A new study conducted by Queens Mary University has shown that folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid contains B vitamin which helps the body form healthy red blood cells, but more importantly it reduces the risk of central neural tube defects, such as Spinal bifida in unborn babies. 

Health ministers now want UK to fortify flour, like the rest of the world, as concerns have risen after the amount of unplanned pregnancies in the UK. This is due to the fact that folic acid is most important to be taken in the first few weeks of the pregnancy. Researchers believe many women can be protected from NTD and that the cost would just be mere “pennies”. 

A report conducted in 2015 by the British Medical Journal, states that over 2000 pregnancies associated with neural tube defect could have been avoided, if the UK, like the rest of the world followed suit and adopted the fortification system. 

Dr.Chris Brock, the head of food sciences at the national bakery school has explained that; “Folic acid is a vitamin, and vitamins are chemicals that we can’t make ourselves and therefore have to consume them, as our body needs them”. 

He emphasised that; “Folic acid is particularly important in the early development of the fetus, and if a pregnant woman has a deficiency of folic acid, they are in dangers of neural tube defect”. 

Folic acid is not just good to be taken by pregnant women, but for everyone, as folate operates in red blood cells, which helps us protect and fight against heart disease and breast cancer. Not enough folate in the body also causes a risk of many cancerous diseases like cervical, colon, brain, and lung cancer. It can also cause symptoms such as weakness of the body, extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. 

Although the main source of folic acid for the rest of the world is mainly found in fortified products, there are also other foods that contain the B vitamin naturally. Spinach, Brussel sprouts, beef liver, asparagus and white rice, are just some of them.  

By Moona Popal