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Folic acid should be added to bread on a mandatory basis, the Food Standards Agency has advised government. It says the move could cut the number of babies being born with spina bifida by nearly two thirds, as the vitamin plays a key role in foetal development. Women are advised to take supplements before becoming pregnant, but many do not do so, or take them too late.

Research has linked folic acid to a raised cancer risk, but the FSA said the evidence was not convincing. The US and Canada started fortification of bread flour in the late 1990s, and some of the subsequent research has pointed to an increase in cases of bowel cancer. However the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which advises the FSA, said this evidence was insubstantial and that any increase in cases could be down to improved screening. It did, however, recommend that those deemed to be at greater risk of colon cancer should receive precautionary advice on taking extra supplements containing folic acid, and that the situation should be monitored.

Unplanned pregnancies

Last month there were calls for all Scottish women to take folic acid – even those not planning a family – after 15 babies were born with the condition since the start of the year.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin found in a wide variety of foods including liver and green leafy vegetables. The body cannot store it, so it must be ingested daily via supplements or folate-rich foods. The vitamin is known to prevent neural tube defects in foetuses, but many women do not take it – in part because pregnancies are often unplanned and can go unnoticed for many weeks.

As well as cutting the incidence of spina bifida, latest research from Canada also suggests it can reduce the risk of congenital heart problems in babies. But while cereal has long been fortified, suggestions that bread should be supplemented have been rejected by those who argue it is tantamount to mass medication. The FSA’s advice has been sent to the UK’s chief medical officer – Sir Liam Donaldson, who is known to be an advocate of fortification. Legislation would be needed however for the move to go ahead.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We will now consider their recommendation for the introduction of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid alongside controls on voluntary fortification.”

You can read the article on the BBC website here – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8315836.stm

For more information on the Herbalife products containing Folic Acid, please contact us or visit our online store to browse the full product range.

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Mothers-to-be who are obese increase their odds of having a baby with abnormalities including spina bifida, researchers say.

Their analysis of data from 39 studies found obese women were more than twice as likely to have a baby with spina bifida or another neural tube defect. The risk of heart defects and cleft lip was also raised, the Journal of the American Medical Association says.

Up to a fifth of pregnant mothers in the UK are classed as obese.

Leading clinicians said the government should be focusing anti-obesity campaigns on women of child-bearing age.

It is well known that women who are obese are more likely to have difficulty conceiving and once they are pregnant, overweight and obese women and their babies are at a greater risk of a range of health problems. However, this is the first time that so many studies have been combined to build a more accurate picture of the risks to the unborn child, according to lead researcher Dr Judith Rankin of Newcastle University.

“Given that we are seeing an increase in the number of people who are overweight or obese, then we may see an increase in the number of babies born with abnormalities,” she said. However, she stressed these abnormalities were uncommon.

“Spina bifida only occurs in approximately one in every 2,000 births, so the risk, even among obese women, remains very low.

“Women who are thinking about trying for a baby need to check their own weight first and then think about seeking help if they are overweight.

“While you are pregnant it’s not the time to start a weight loss diet but it is more important to eat sensibly and healthily,” she said. The Royal College of Midwives echoed this advice.

Dr Rankin’s team will now continue the work to examine why there is a link between a mother’s weight and abnormalities in the baby. They say it could be related to nutritional deficiencies or undetected diabetes in the mother.

Both maternal diabetes and a lack of folic acid are established risk factors for birth abnormalities, particularly neural tube defects which affect the brain and spinal cord.

Prevention

Andrew Russell, chief executive of the Association for Spinal Bifida and Hydrocephalus, said: “Folic acid does seem to be involved. It is very important for women planning a pregnancy or likely to fall pregnant to take a folic acid supplement.”

If you are interested in finding out more about increasing your well-being and nutrition in advance of conception, please feel free to contact us via our main website. You can also view related testimonials on our Results page.

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Click here to view the full article on BBC NEWS | Health | Obese mothers ‘risk spina bifida’.

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