Foods with folic acid decrease birth defects
Wheat flour milled in Nigeria will soon be fortified with folic acid, a B vitamin known for preventing serious or fatal birth defects of the spine and brain.
Women who may become pregnant are encouraged to daily choose foods fortified with this essential vitamin because it can preventthe majority of these devastating birth defects known as neuraltube defects.
Foods already fortified with folic acid in Nigeria include Blue Brand margarine made by Unilever, Dangote pasta, Bournvita, Ovaltine, and some brands of powdered milk.
Flour has been fortified with iron and vitamin A in Nigeria for years. Adding folic acid means that all the bread and pasta made with fortified flour will also contain this vitamin.
More than 60 countries fortify wheat flour with folic acid, and they report 30 to 70 per cent declines in neural tube defects as a result.
Spina bifida is the most common birth defect that can be prevented with folic acid. It causes the baby’s spine to not form correctly, and it cannot be cured.
Children with spina bifida almost always have some formof paralysis and problems controlling their bowel and bladder functions.
Children with spina bifida undergo a lifetime of surgeries and face many health issues.
Two other types of neural tube defects affect the brain. With anencephaly, the brain does not form properly. These pregnancies are often miscarried, but if the infants are delivered, the babies die shortly after birth.
Encephalocele is an opening of the skull which allows parts of the brain and brain membrane to protrude through the opening. The severity of encephalocele depends on its location.
Women need folic acid within the first three weeks of pregnancy because that is when the infant’s neural tube is formed.
Many women do not realise they are pregnant during this time. Consequently, it is important that women consume foods fortified with folic acid every day if there is any chance they could become pregnant. Women are still encouraged to take vitamin supplements with folic acid and to eat a varietyof healthy foods if they maybecome pregnant.
Foods fortified with folic acid provide a way for women to consume more folic acid just by eating what they normally eat every day.
Foods fortified with folic acid will include the words folic acid or vitamin B9 on the nutrition label. With more fortified foods on the market, Nigerians can expect healthier infants if women consistently read the labels on food products,then purchase and consume foods fortified with folic acid.