BETHESDA, Md.--The addition of folic acid to cereal grain products, required Jan. 1, 1998, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), effectively increases intake of this important B vitamin in adults, according to a new study published in the December American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"The absorption of folic acid from fortified white and whole wheat bread, rice, and pasta, was consistently good in the seven men and seven nonpregnant women who participated in the study," said senior author Jesse F. Gregory III, Ph.D., Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, who was involved in the study with three associates. "The components of the cereal grain foods did not significantly interfere with the absorption of the added folic acid."
On January 1, 1998, U.S. manufacturers of enriched cereal grain foods are required to add folic acid at a concentration of 1.4 micrograms per gram to their products. This FDA requirement is based on a recommendation from the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to reduce their chances of having a baby with a neural-tube defect (any congenital defect involving the brain and spinal cord).
"Nationwide food-consumption surveys suggest that the average daily folate intake for women of child-bearing age is 180 to 200 micrograms per day," said Dr. Gregory. "That is well below the PHS recommendation."
Another benefit of adding folic acid to cereal grain products, according to the study's senior investigator, is the possibility of reducing homocysteine concentrations in the blood of individuals, which could lessen their risk for several forms of heart disease.
The 14 study subjects, who were 20 to 35 years old, participated in 7 trials of folic acid intake.
Each individual had normal blood chemistry, hematologic indexes, and serum and blood folate
Contact: Jesse F. Gregory, III, PhD
American Society for Clinical Nutrition/American Society for Nutritional Sciences