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Folic acid curbs birth defects

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OTTAWA, Sep 27, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A 78 percent drop in birth defects in one Canadian province was attributed to the addition of folic acid to foods, a study published Monday said.

Dr. Catherine McCourt from the Population and Public Health Branch of Health Canada and her colleagues from other Canadian institutions studied the effects of folic acid fortification in women and babies from Newfoundland and Labrador. Historically, the province has one of the highest rates of neural tube defects and spina bifida in North America.

In 1998, the Canadian government introduced the mandatory fortification of some foods such flour, cornmeal and pasta with folic acid to help ensure that all women of childbearing age increased their intake of this vitamin.

The incidence of neural tube defects in the province reduced from an average of 4.36 defects per 1,000 births between 1991 and 1997, prior to fortification, to an average of 0.96 defects per 1,000 births between 1998 and 2001, once fortification was introduced.

The study was published Monday in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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