MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Vijaya Kancherla, PhD
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology
Epidemiologist, Center for Spina Bifida Prevention
Rollins School of Public Health
Atlanta GA 30322
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: The scientific evidence since 1991 has shown that folic acid prevents from 35%-95% of neural tube birth defects that are caused due to low folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) in the mother’s diet prior to conception and during early pregnancy. Neural tube defects form in the embryo at 4th week of gestation when most women are unaware they are pregnant.
Taking any amount of folic acid after the 4th week of pregnancy will not prevent neural tube defects. There is no cure for these birth defects. So, it matters for women to have enough folic acid prior to conception and in the first four weeks of pregnancy. If a woman is not taking prenatal vitamins that early, folic acid fortified foods come to rescue. Foods fortified with folic acid will prevent folate deficiency for everyone, and offer the benefit to mothers who were not planning their pregnancies or were not taking folic acid pills. If corn masa flour and tortillas were fortified with folic acid, that would help millions of reproductive aged women have healthy stores of folic acid in their bodies, to prepare them for their pregnancy, irrespective of their pregnancy plans.
Prior to April 2016, folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) was not allowed to be added to corn masa flour (or products made from masa such as tortillas and tortilla chips) in the US. So, there was no expectation of having folic acid in these products.
The March of Dimes, Spina Bifida Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatricians, Gruma Corporation and others filed a petition with the US FDA and succeeded in allowing millers to voluntarily add folic acid to corn masa flour and tortillas as a food additive. This regulation was implemented by the US FDA in April 2016. Continue reading