Folate-enriched Foods Boost Folic Acid Levels

The Food and Drug Administration ruling that requires all grain products to be enriched with folic acid has resulted in higher folate levels in adult Americans. The goal of the ruling, which took effect in January 1998, was to increase folic acid intake among women of childbearing age. Folic acid deficiency at the time of conception is known to increase risk for birth defects such as spina bifida. The report shows that the ruling has led to a doubling of folate levels in a group of adults studied, a positive finding because recent studies have linked higher blood folate levels to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

Blood homocysteine levels decreased by 7% and the prevalence of high homocysteine levels decreased by about 50% in this group, the study authors report. Previous studies have linked high levels of the amino acid homocysteine to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming more folic acid, however, is believed to lower blood levels of homocysteine. This is the first peer-reviewed published study to measure the effects of food fortification on blood levels. The findings suggest that food fortification strategies will have a substantial beneficial effect among older adults.

The New England Journal of Medicine May 13, 1999;340:1449-1454.

COMMENT: It is wonderful to see traditional medicine starting to document the importance of keeping certain well recognized beneficial nutrients at optimized levels. Unfortunately, this information was known for decades before it was finally implemented. Hopefully, the internet and newsletters like this one will help to decrease the time to practical implementation of what research scientists uncover.

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