Creme Global

Folic Acid - Give Mothers-To-Be Their Daily Bread

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Courtesy of Creme Global

Folic Acid - Give Mothers-To-Be Their Daily Bread

Folic acid is a B vitamin which cannot be produced within the human body. That is why it must either be taken in as food or by means of a folic acid supplement in tablet form.

Folic acid is reported to be beneficial for women who are planning on becoming pregnant. Taking extra folic acid before becoming pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can help reduce the risk of development of a neural tube defect (NTD) in the baby.

NTDs are a major group of birth defects that occur when the brain, spinal cord or the covering of these organs have not developed properly. Anencephaly and spina bifida are the most common types of NTDs in Ireland.

National Governments, such as the ones in the UK, Australia and Ireland, are currently considering folic acid fortification of wheat or bread in order to reduce the risk of NTDs in babies. Fortification of wheat flour has been accepted and put into practice in a number of countries, including the USA, Canada and Chile.

However, critics claim that the average person would have to eat a vast amount of fortified bread in order to benefit from the positive health implications connected with folic acid and warn that many people - including the crucial group of women of childbearing age - do not eat bread at all. In order to obtain more accurate data on this issue, more research needs to be done.

Committees tasked with implementing these policies have to address the technical problems connected with bread fortification, consider the benefits and risks associated with fortification and to understand the long-term implications of fortified bread intake. Recent studies have suggested that an over-average intake of folic acid can lead to masking the deficiency syndromes of another B vitamin - vitamin B12. Therefore, an intake of folic acid should not be too high to prevent consumers from discovering vitamin B12 deficiency too late, that is only after the lack of the vitamin has already damaged the nerve system. Cognitive defects in the elderly are also suspected to be related with an increased intake of folic acid.

In Ireland, the Committee recommended the mandatory fortification with folic acid of most white, brown and whole-meal breads on sale.

But, how do you know how much folic acid each demographic group of the population will be exposed to from their diverse eating habits when the new fortification recommendation comes into force?

And are those levels effective and safe?

CREMe specialises in these questions and in solving these problems for our clients. We perform detailed exposure analysis including the breakdown of results into key demographic groups for nutrients in foods using CREMe 2.0 Food.

In order to achieve a detailed report, an analysis is performed using an up to date, full food consumption data set on the population's eating habits. The food consumption data set is then analysed and the relevant food codes are found using the CREMe 2.0 searching tool in order to group foods of similar characteristics into food groups. For example, the bread food group is created and the concentration of folic acid assigned is set to be equal to the recommended level of 120 micro g of folic acid per 100g of bread.

Market share and brand loyalty information is then applied for foods on the market which are already currently fortified such as breakfast cereals and spreads. The concentration of the folic acid in each food, brand of group of foods can then be assigned to each using the CREMe Concentrations Table. If there is any uncertainty or variability in any of the input data, these can be inputted as probability expressions to represent the possible values.

Once all of the data has been inputted into the system, the system will then easily and efficiently calculate the exposure levels of your chosen demographic groups of the population. The results are then available for the mean female consumer between the ages of 18 and 35, for example, or the highest 95th percentile male consumer between the ages of 40 and 70. The results are generated as intake of folic acid in micro g per day (and per kg bodyweight) with confidence intervals.

This analysis has been run for the Irish population based on the above recommendation and the report can be made available on request, please contact us for more information. We would be happy to support organisations, regulators and industry from other countries in their efforts to understand the impacts of folic acid in food. This analysis can be run for the UK, USA, Australia or any other country you require. If you would like more information, please contact us.

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