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Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1773-9.

Reassessing folic acid consumption patterns in the United States (1999 2004): potential effect on neural tube defects and overexposure to folate.

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  • 1Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, General Clinical Research Center, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0370, USA.



In the United States, folic acid fortification of cereal- grain foods has significantly increased folate status. However, blood folate concentrations have decreased from their postfortification high as a result, in part, of decreasing food fortification concentrations and the popularity of low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets.


The objectives of the study were to quantify changes in folate intake after folic acid fortification and to estimate the effect on neural tube defect (NTD) occurrence.


Expanding on an earlier model, we used data from 11 intervention studies to determine the relation between chronic folate intervention and changes in steady state serum folate concentrations. With serum folate data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we used reverse prediction to calculate postfortification changes in daily folate equivalents (DFEs). With the use of NHANES red blood cell folate data and a published equation that related NTD risk to maternal red cell folate concentrations, we calculated NTD risk.


Folate intake decreased by approximately 130 microg DFE/d from its postfortification high, primarily as a result of changes seen in women with the highest folate status. This decrease in folate intake was predicted to increase the incidence of NTD by 4-7%, relative to a predicted 43% postfortification decrease. In addition, the number of women consuming >1 mg bioavailable folate/d decreased.


Folate consumption by women of childbearing age in the United States has decreased. However, the decrease in those women with the lowest folate status was disproportionately small. Consequently, the effect on NTD risk should be less than would be seen if a uniform decrease in folate concentrations had occurred. These results reinforce the need to maintain monitoring of the way fortification is implemented.

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