SERDANG, 7 Dec - Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) researchers have found the risk of birth defects can be greatly reduced if women significantly increase their folic acid intake. This work was done in collaboration with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, and Canada’s University of British Columbia.
The neural tube defects (NTDs) are birth defects like spina bifida that effect 300,000 babies born annually worldwide. Some of these babies die at birth while others have life-long disabilities. In Malaysia a prospective study reported a prevalence of 0.42 per 1000 live births (Boo et al, 2013).
It’s well established that folic acid supplements should be taken prior to and during early pregnancy to reduce the risk of NTDs, but researchers believe the dose used in practice should be far higher. Scientists predict the number of cases could be halved if the World Health Organization (WHO) acts on the latest findings.
The research team from UPM Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, consists of Assoc Prof Dr Loh Su Peng (Principal Investigator), Emeritus Prof Dr Khor Geok Lin, Prof Dr Zalilah Mohd Shariff and Dr Irmi Zarina Ismail. The other researchers include Prof Dr Timothy Green from South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Dr Crystal Karokochuk from University of British Columbia, Canada.
The study sponsored by Nutrition International with support from the Government of Canada and published in BMJ Global Health has shown taking weekly iron folic acid supplements (IFA) containing 2.8 mg folic acid can lower the risk of NTDs by up to four times more than the current global standard of just 0.4 mg.
During the trial, 70% of women consuming 2.8 mg folic acid per week achieved a red blood cell folate concentration associated with a low NTD risk, compared with 10% of those taking 0.4 mg.
The WHO recommends a weekly supplement for all women aged 15-49 living in countries where the rate of anaemia is above 20%. This supplement currently contains the appropriate 60mg of iron but just 0.4mg of folic acid; not enough to provide a benefit.
Researchers are now recommending that the optimal 2.8mg of folic acid formulation be made widely available to women in low- and middle-income countries. - UPM
Date of Input: 12/01/2021 | Updated: 12/01/2021 | hairul_nizam
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