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Folic Acid May Reduce Heart Deformities in Babies

Folic acid fortification of all flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal became mandatory in Canada in November 1998. A recent study suggests that folic acid-fortified food may reduce the number of babies born with heart abnormalities.


Data for the study came from a population-based cohort study of 5,901,701 live births and stillbirths delivered at more than 20 weeks gestation in Canada from 1990 to 2011. Of that population, 72,591 babies were diagnosed with congenital heart defect at birth and in infancy. 


The researchers examined occurrence and trends in congenital heart defect before and after 1998. They controlled for variables such as changes in maternal age, pre-pregnancy diabetes, preterm preeclampsia, multiple birth, and termination of pregnancy and found that the effect of folic acid food fortification on congenital heart defect could be seen in 67,000 births.


Specifically, the researchers found an 11% reduction in the number of babies born with heart defects, a 27% reduction in heart outflow tract abnormalities, a 23% reduction in the narrowing of the aorta, and a 15% reduction in holes in the heart wall.


Researchers from the University of British Columbia conducted the study. It was published on August 30, 2016, in Circulation.


Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate plays an essential role in many of the necessary functions of the human body. It has been associated with nervous system function, red blood cell formation, and hormone function. Previous studies have also found a potential link between this vitamin and reductions in hearing loss and birth defects.


Our bodies do not naturally synthesize B vitamins. However, it is easy to increase your intake by eating more folate-rich foods, such as liver, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupes, and other melons.

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