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Folic acid enriched food is a natural remedy for heart defects

Harold Mandel's picture
natural remedy for heart defects

Food fortified with folic acid has been found to be associated with lower rates of congenital heart defects, according to new research which has been published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.


Congenital heart disease is a devastating condition for parents and their child. The finding that fortifying food with a B vitamin is associated with a decrease in congenital heart defects is therefore compelling. A decrease in overall rates of congenital heart disease has been found to be associated with food which is fortified with folic acid according to the American Heart Association. This positive effect with folic acid was seen in some types of congenital heart defects in Canada, but not all types. Folic acid is a B vitamin which is needed in human diets for various biological functions.

Folic acid fortification is linked to a decrease in congenital heart disease

This study was based on the situation in Canada prior to and after food fortification was made mandatory under the law in 1998. The effect of folic acid on each specific subtype of congenital heart disease was investigated. The researchers analyzed data which was taken from about 6 million Canadian births between 1990 to 2011.They discovered that overall there was an 11 percent decrease in rates of congenital heart defects linked to folic acid food fortification.

There was a 27 percent decrease in conotruncal defects, which are severe outflow tract abnormalities of the heart. A 23 percent decrease in coarctation of the aorta was seen which is a narrowing of this artery. The aorta is the major artery the which is responsible for carrying blood to the body. And there was a 15 percent decrease in atrial and ventricular septal defects. These are actual holes in the wall which separates heart chambers. However in regard to chromosomally associated defects no changes were seen.

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Canada and the United States have both implemented folic acid fortification of food

In 1998 putting folic acid in various types of flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal was made mandatory under the law in Canada. This law was aimed primarily at preventing neural tube defects. K.S. Joseph, M.D., Ph.D., who was the study’s senior author, has said the findings in the study are applicable to the population in the United States because at about the same time similar levels of folic acid food fortification were implemented due to the North American Fair Trade Agreement of 1994.

During rapid cell division and growth folic acid fortification becomes particularly important. This occurs during the formation of blood and when the fetus is developing rapidly during pregnancy. Several different complications have been observed to result from folate deficiency. The primary defect noted has been spina bifida, which is an abnormality of the spine and spinal cord in babies. Anemia is also seen with folate deficiency.

Women planning to get pregnant should take folate supplements

Dr. Joseph, who is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has said that women who are likely to become pregnant should begin taking folic acid supplements prior to getting pregnant. There remains concern these women may not always get adequate folate from just their diet.

This study has been published in the journal Circulation which reports it has been estimated that there are approximately 650,000 to 1.3 million children and adults who are living with congenital heart disease in the United States. The most common type of defect are ventricular septal defects which account for about 620,000 of these cases. The finding of associations between food fortification with folic acid and decreases in the birth prevalence of specific subtypes of congenital heart disease coupled with the other serious problems associated with folate deficiency gives support for continued folate food fortification and supplements for women planning on becoming pregnant.