Folic acid or folate is a type of B vitamin that is needed by pregnant women. It has essential functions in the development of the neural tubes to the brain and spinal cord of the fetus to develop properly. Eating folate-rich food is imperative not only for pregnant women but women in general. Consumption of 400mg of folic acid daily is enough to prevent the progression of neural tube defects. There are many sources of folic acid and it is important for women to eat a generous serving of these foods like lentils, spinach, broccoli, eggs and fortified grains and pasta.

Neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly are estimated to occur in 3,000 pregnancies in the United States every year. It is caused by minimal to no intake of folic acid. This is the reason why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed on the fortification of food as an effective means of addressing micronutrient deficiencies.

Folic Acid Fortification to Help Hispanic American Women

Mandatory fortification of grains started in 1998, but despite this, there is a significant number of Hispanic children who suffer from this condition. Thus, one of the ways to diminish the inconsistency is to fortify the corn masa flour to improve the total consumption of folic acid among Hispanic women.

Corn masa flour is a primary component of Spanish dough that is made from cooking corn and alkali and grinding them. It is a staple food for many Latin Americans particularly those from Central America and Mexico. This type of flour has a wide variety of uses such as making tortillas, taco shells, tamales and corn chips. While corn masa flour is high in providing the necessary carbohydrates and energy for the body, it does not contain B vitamins. You would have to eat other foods that contain folic acid to get your daily intake.

Several types of research showed that Hispanic women have a lower intake of folate than non-Hispanic women.  As such, the US FDA has approved the fortification of corn masa flour with folic acid. Manufacturers of the corn flour should add up to 0.7 milligrams of folic acid per pound of masa flour. Increasing the consumption of folic acid in enriched corn masa flour is helpful in reducing the incidence of neural tube defects especially among populations wherein corn flour is a staple in their diet.

Studies showed that fortification of corn masa flour with folic acid can increase the daily intake of said nutrient in Hispanic women by as much as 20% which is higher compared to the normal consumption of only 4%. This also reduces the need for Hispanic women to take daily synthetic supplements as they can get their folate from staple food sources.

The addition of folic acid on corn masa flour was done after conducting a scientific safety review to ensure that adding the micronutrient is safe for the general populace. FDA also evaluated dietary exposure, toxicology data as well as other relevant information to make sure that corn flour enriched with folic acid is not only effective in preventing NTD but also safe.

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