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Adding folic acid to flour significantly reduces congenital malformations

This release is also available in French.

Quebec City, July 12, 2007 Dr. Philippe De Wals of Universit Lavals Department of Social and Preventive Medicine today publishes a study clearly indicating that the addition of folic acid to flours has led to a 46% drop in the incidence of congenital neural tube deformation (mainly anencephaly and spina bifida) in Canada. Such deformations either result in the childs death or in major health problems, including physical and learning disabilities. Dr. De Walss work as head of a team of a dozen Canadian researchers appears today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The neural tube is the basis of the embryos nervous system. Poor development of the neural tube, which is sometimes due to a lack of folic acid, can result in major health problems. Folic acid is found in green vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and meat. However, even a balanced diet wont supply enough folic acid for a pregnant mother and the child she is carrying. Before1998, Canadian medical authorities were already recommending that women in their child-bearing years consume vitamin supplements containing folic acid. Canada decided to add folic acid to all flour produced in the country because formation of the neural tube in embryos is particularly intense during the first four weeks of pregnancy, which is before a lot of women even know theyre pregnant. Since half of Canadian pregnancies are unplanned and the human body cant store folic acid, it is better to integrate folic acid into the food chain than to focus exclusively on taking vitamin supplements, stated Dr. De Wals. Health Canada still recommends taking folic acid supplements to women in their child-bearing years.

Researchers Dr. Philippe De Wals and Fassiatou Tairou of Universit Lavals Faculty of Medicine compared the incidence of neural tube deformations before and after the introduc
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Contact: Martin Guay
martin.guay@dap.ulaval.ca
418-656-3952
Universit Laval
12-Jul-2007


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