Folic acid or vitamin B9 is already known to have proved its efficiency in preventing neural tube defects. Supposedly the Canadian policy of fortifying their grain products with vitamin B9 has demonstrated this positive effect of folic acid. Another positive effect that vitamin B9 may have is its potential ability to lower the rate of congenital heart defects. This claim has been made by the experts from the McGill Adult Unit for Congenital Heart Disease, the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and McGill University.
It was stated that, in Canada for over a decade their grains products have been fortified with folic acid. This act is believed to have in turn resulted in a decrease in the incidence of congenital birth defects. Through an analysis of this data, these experts have now seemingly revealed the ability of folic acid to lessen the occurrence of such heart defects by more than 6 percent.
To this the co-investigator of the study Raluca Ionescu-Ittu,says that, “this decrease is very significant and probably underestimated. During the study period, there was an increase in other factors associated with a higher prevalence of congenital heart defects, so without the fortification we would probably have seen an increase in these defects.”
Having said this, it was also noted that certain preventative measures need to be taken in order to prompt expecting mothers to consume supplements enriched with folic acid.
Ionescu-Ittu elucidates that, “The level of fortification was established to avoid negative side effects in the general population. However, this level is not quite sufficient for women planning a pregnancy, who should start taking folic acid supplements at least three months before becoming pregnant.”
These experts have even stated that natural sources of folic acid like fruits and green vegetables may not be able to provide an adequate amount of the desired vitamin. Therefore expecting mothers may usually be recommended to even consume folic acid supplements along with a healthy folic acid enriched meal.
This study has been reported in the British Medical Journal.