- Folic acid is part of a family of compounds called folates. folic acid is a water soluble vitamin and leaches into cooking water during boiling.
- Many vegetables including spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans and potatoes include folic acid.
- Pulses, peas and beans are also a good source.
- some bread and cereals are fortified with folic acid.
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- Fortification or fortified food refers to the addition of one or more nutrients to a food. It makes the food a 'richer' source of nutrients.
- Mandatory fortification is the addition of nutrient to a food product by law.
- During the secobnd world war, there was a concern about public health and the need to ensure the nation remained healthy if food supplies bacame restricted. To address this concern certain vitamins and minerals were added to whire and brown bread and sometimes infant milk powder.
- the purpose of mandatory fortification of bread and flour with folic acid is to reduce the number of neural tube defects.
- Fortification became a law in the UK in 2007 after the Food Standards Agency agreed. This has meant that the intake of folic acid has increased.
- However there is concern that the fortification of bread will conceal vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly
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- Pregnant women need a good supply of folic acid which helps develop the spinal cord in the embryo. Ideally folic acid shold be consumed every day before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to meet this need.
- Folic acid is essential for the formation of red blood cells.
- Folic acid also works with vitamin B12 in the process of cell division.
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Symptoms of deficiency
- Folic acid can reduce the risk of having baby born with spina bifida. Spina bifida 'split spine' and is often referred to as a neural tube defect.
- It is estimated that there are between 700 and 900 pregnancies affected neural tube defects each year. It is thought that many affected pregnancies are terminated.
- Pregnant women or those thinking of having a baby should take 0.4 mg of folic acid each day.
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Symptoms of excess
- Symptoms of excess are rare but include gastrointestinal problems and sleep disturbances.
- Some research also suggests the large amounts of folic acid can mask or hide the damaging effects of vitamin B12 deficiency and the development of pernicious anaemia.
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