A new study has warned that expecting mothers are putting the health of their babies at risk by failing to take folic acid supplements before they get pregnant.
The study was conducted by researchers at Queen Mary's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine who surveyed over 500,000 women attending antenatal clinics in England and the Isle of Man and found that despite recommendations advising them to take folic acid supplements, less than a third of them did so before getting pregnant, with the rate falling down from 35 percent between 1999 and 2001, to 31 percent in 2011 and 2012.
The drop in folic acid consumption comes even as studies showed that majority of spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the brain, spine or spinal cord, in a newborn baby can be avoided by having a high level of folate, or vitamin B9, before the pregnancy. The study has been published in the online edition of the journal of the Public Library of Science
"It's a public health tragedy that, in spite of the folic acid fortification initiative in many countries, the UK has not introduced mandatory folic acid fortification. The failure to fortify flour with folic acid is like having a polio vaccine and not using it", study author Sir Nicholas Wald said.