Monday, September 9, 2013

Folic acid for neural tube defects? But then maybe not ...

The European Food Safety Authority, Europe’s head science agency has joined other international authorities in backing B vitamin folate’s ability to reduce neural tube defects (NTDs) like spina bifida and hydrocephalus in early-stage foetuses.

Where the hell has EFSA been hiding? When Francesca Naish and I wrote The Natural Way to Better Babies - Preconception Healthcare for Prospective Parents, the studies linking folic acid to NTDs had already spanned 8 years and numbered in the hundreds. Better Babies, was first published in 1996 and is now officially an “evergreen” publication, the manuscript which led to its publication was several years prior to that in its creation, which puts those early folic acid studies into the veteran category. 

So how long will it be before EFSA catches up with the latest folate and methylation research. With the MTHFR polymorphism reaching epidemic proportions thanks to epigenetic changes now spanning several generations, we need to look at more specific folate (notably L-methylfolate + folinic acid) supplementation depending on the individual’s ability to metabolise and utilise the old faithful, folic acid. And please, when are practitioners of whatever persuasion going to pay attention to the best recommendations, which mean that isolated nutritional factors (e.g. folic acid) should never be given, but that comprehensive, robust supplementation is the way to go before conception and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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