Dr. Whiteford, IF president: Folic Acid needs to be taken preconception, very hard to achieve with supplements

September 14, 2015   World

International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus | Source

11998894 10153613652648887 6014496251505559445 nBrussels, On the 9-11 September, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) together with the government of Tanzania held the #FutureFortified Global Summit on Food Fortification to raise awareness of and strengthen investment in food fortification.

After three days of intense and fruitful meetings, the Global Summit on Food Fortification set out to provide the basis to contribute and to introduce such an important issue into the Sustainable Development Goals and beyond.

The interest in micronutrient malnutrition has increased over the last years; for instance, Tanzania began a National Nutrition Strategy in 2011 with an Implementation Plan aiming at attaining adequate nutritional status. Despite that between 2010 and 2014, chronic malnutrition fell from 42% to 35%, Tanzania has more than 430.000 children who suffer from acute malnutrition.

The simple fact of fortifying flour with low amounts of folic acid during the wheat milling process can reduce the incidence of neural birth defects by an average of 46%. Folic acid is required for appropriate development of the brain and spinal cord during pregnancy.

Dr. Whiteford, president of IF at the Global Summit on food Fortification

Dr. Whiteford, president of IF, participated in the panel Protecting life before it begins: The impact of Spina Bifidatogether with Jay Naidoo, Chair of Board and Partnership Council, Dr. Chris Elias from the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg from the Copenhagen Consensus and Dr. Sue Horton from the University of Waterloo. In her intervention, Dr. Whiteford talked about the consequences of living with Spina Bifida and remarked the importance of folic acid supplementation, the burdens are tenfold and folic acid is the key.

In order to illustrate real life impact of the failure to fortify, IF hosted a field visit to the ALMC and the rehabilitation centre Plaster House. Both organisations are partners of IF in improving access to care in Arusha, Tanzania.

arah (Plaster House), Dr Femi (Lagos, Nigeria), Juliana (guesthouse Kijabe), Dr Catherine (ALMC), and the neuronurse of ALMC with Margo Whiteford

Already in 2000, the World Health Report recognised iodine, iron, Vitamin A and zinc deficiencies as being among the worlds most serious health risk factors.

The lack of those essential vitamins and nutrients increases the risk of serious birth defects.

Fortification strategies have demonstrated high cost-effectiveness and are largely sustainable. However, governments need to invest in building, improving and sustaining fortification programmes.

According to the Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency, A Global Progress Report, the situation can be mitigated for an available and affordable solution

The fortification cost is around 0, 16 euros per person per year. In the world, there are currently 83 countries, plus Punjab province in Pakistan, with a legislation to fortify their food with vitamins, and 78 of them include Folic Acid in their industrially milled wheat flour. Most of them are developing countries..

To help these countries, the WHO launched the guideline Optimal serum and red blood cell folate concentrations in women of reproductive age for prevention of neural tube defectsto advise Member States and their partners on the values for red blood cell folate concentration in women for the prevention of NTDs. The guideline can help identify the risk of NTDs and settle nutritional strategies, including folic acid fortification, to prevent congenital anomalies.

The Summit technical Advisory Group will continue working post Summit to consolidate and elaborate recommendations and chart a path forward by January 2016.

The Second Global Nutrition Report which will be published on Tuesday 22 September sets out news evidences and progress in combating malnutrition and aims at greatly contributing to increase commitment and resources for further progress towards reducing malnutrition much faster.