Wednesday 22 February 2017

Adding folic acid to bread

Published 16/02/2016 | 02:30

Women who intend to become pregnant are advised to take supplements, but many don't. Photo: Thinkstockphotos.com
Women who intend to become pregnant are advised to take supplements, but many don't. Photo: Thinkstockphotos.com

The mandatory addition of the vitamin folic acid to bread is now increasingly likely following the setting up of an expert group to examine how to reduce birth defects.

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Fortifying certain foods with folic acid helps pregnant women to increase their intake of the vitamin and reduce the chances of having a baby with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida or anencephaly.

But the addition to foodstuffs remains voluntary and, although all women who intend to become pregnant are advised to take supplements, many are failing to do so.

Around 80 pregnant women in Ireland are told annually their baby will have a neural tube defect. If the unborn baby has anencephaly they will not survive and some parents are choosing a termination of the pregnancy in the UK.

The Department of Health has now confirmed it has established an expert group,chaired by obstetrician Dr Michael Turner, and part of its brief is to look at food fortification with folic acid.

It will also plan information campaigns on the need for folic acid before conception and pregnancy and look at the development of guidelines for at-risk groups.

Women are currently advised to take folic acid supplements before conception and during pregnancy to prevent seven out of 10 cases of neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. British Medical Journal called for fortification of bread across Europe.

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