Thursday, July 13, 2006

Folic acid may be added to bread

Bakers could soon play a major role in the prevention of devastating birth defects under plans to add folic acid to all bread.

The trans-Tasman regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, has revealed a draft food standard to make folic acid mandatory in all bread-making flour to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

The proposed standard is expected to reduce the number of Australian children conceived with neural tube defects by between 14 and 49 a year. Up to 350 unborn children are affected with such defects every year and about 70 per cent of these pregnancies are terminated. It would cost AUS$1 million to implement but save the nation AUS$124.5 million, according to the proposal.

Melanie Fisher, general manager of FSANZ, said bread was the most suitable option for increased folic acid as it was regularly eaten by women of child-bearing age. The risk of conceiving a baby with a neural tube defect can be significantly reduced by consuming extra folic acid a day before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy. However, safety concerns mean the new measure would deliver only half the recommended dose of folate for pregnant women.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Dick Wells called the move premature. Folate would be better added to a range of products, he said.

Surely, pregnant women (and those planning to become one), should avoid all grain and flour products and concentrate on dark, leafy, green vegetables such as spinach, watercress, silverbeet, kale and broccoli? Apart from having higher levels of folic acid (a B vitamin also known as Folate), there are also countless other vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that simply are NOT in grain products - even those fortified with folate!

Just between you and I, my partner and I are planning to become pregnant in the near future. As I do most of the cooking at home, I'm pumping her full of -- you guessed it! Some of the vegetables mentioned above. She doesn't like them all so I don't make her eat them. But she's happy to take this as well.........

......... that's 5mg a day more than what she's getting from vegetables alone.

And do you know what? I take one a day too. I used to lie to the chemist and tell them that it's for my partner, but these days, I make a point of telling them who it's for and why. I take it to help lower my homocysteine levels, one of the key clinical indicators for heart attack, peripheral vascular disease and stroke.


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