Adding folic acid in bread can cut spina bifida cases: Experts

Updated: Jul 23, 2012, 14:17 PM IST

London: Health experts in the UK have suggested to fortify bread with folic acid, an essential B vitamin to reduce the number of babies born with spinal defects.

Experts cited the example of Chile, where births of children with neural tube defects halved after the ministry of health there made it compulsory for folic acid, or folate, to be added to flour, the `Daily Mail` reported.

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. Its symptoms include physical disabilities, developmental delay and bowel and bladder control problems.

Neural tube birth defects were first linked to diet more than 50 years ago.

There was evidence that women on a poor diet were at higher risk and it was noted that babies conceived in the winter were more likely to be born with spina bifida, possibly because the mother`s diet lacked fresh fruit and vegetables good sources of folate in the early weeks of pregnancy.

"Most people should be able to get enough folate by eating a varied and balanced diet," a Department of Health spokesman was quoted by the paper as saying.

"To help prevent birth defects, we recommend women who might become pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant take a daily supplement of 400 mg of folic acid," he said.