London, May 15 (ANI): While fortifying grain products with folic acid has been found to be effective in preventing neural tube defects in Canada, scientists have now found that this form of vitamin B also prevents congenital heart defects.
McGill University researchers in Montreal have found in a study that folic acid decreases the incidence of congenital heart defects by more than 6 percent.
Since December 1998, all grain products sold in Canada have been fortified with folic acid with 0.15 mg of folate per 100 g of flour.
With the help of provincial databases, the researchers showed that the rate of congenital heart defects between 1999 and 2005 was 1.47 per 1000 births compared to 1.64 per 1000 births between 1990 and 1999 for a decrease of 6.2 percent per year after 1999.
Despite the success of this initiative, prevention efforts are still necessary to encourage future mothers to take folic acid supplements.
"The level of fortification was established to avoid negative side effects in the general population," said Raluca Ionescu-Ittu, a PhD candidate on the team.
"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," Ionescu-Ittu added.
The study has been published in the British Medical Journal. (ANI)