Folic acid is very essential, especially for the women of childbearing age. But in a recent study it has been pointed out that high intakes of folic acid may increase the risk rate for certain types of cancer.
Researchers at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and The Hospital for Sick Children conducted the study.
For the study, red blood cell folate concentrations were examined in 5248 Canadians aged 6 to 79 years.
The study found that less than one percent of Canadians showed folate deficiencies and 40 percent showed high folate concentrations. However, in the subset of women of childbearing age, 22 percent were below the concentration considered safe to guard against neural tube defects.
"Some medical practitioners argue that many women of childbearing age need high-dose folic acid supplements and that doubling the level of folic acid fortification in the food supply should be considered," wrote Cynthia Colapinto and coauthors.
"This argument has sparked considerable debate because folic acid fortification targets women of childbearing age by exposing the entire population to high levels of folic acid.
Given the absence of folate deficiency in the general population and the apparent shift toward Canadians having high serum folate concentrations, there appears to be little rationale for doubling folic acid levels in the Canadian food supply," they wrote.
"Correction of folate deficiency and improved folate status, in part through fortification, has been associated with positive health outcomes such as the dramatic reduction in neural tube defects.
"However, given speculations about the possible adverse effects associated with high levels of folic acid, including increased risk of certain cancers in those with pre-existing neoplasms, further attempts to improve the folate status of Canadian women of childbearing age by increasing fortification levels should be approached cautiously," they wrote.
The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.