How much folate is too much?

A National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) has suggested women are actually obtaining substantial amounts of folate in their diets – prior to taking folate or Vitamin B supplements.

Based on this finding, former Balaklava netballer, Shannon Hunt, who is studying a PhD in Sciences, majoring in Food and Nutrition Science, is conducting a study to determine the current level of red cell folate in women of childbearing age in Australia.

“We need to establish if their levels are sufficient to prevent neural tube defects, or are higher than they need to be,” Shannon said.

“As most women don’t know they are pregnant until after the neural tube has closed (28 days), it became a legal requirement (mandatory fortification) from September 2009 to add folic acid to bread flour as a way of increasing the folate status within the population, as a preventative measure for neural tube defects.”

“It became mandatory fortification after a successful period of voluntary fortification saw the incidence of neural tube defects decrease dramatically.”

In 2011-12, in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the NHMS was conducted to monitor the success of the fortification, with interesting
results.

“Basically the results determined, in women of childbearing age, the red cell folate status had been raised from what is considered to be a normal level of 906 nmol/L (nanomoles/litre), before supplementation and fortification, to 1647.3 nmol/L, so there is a need to establish if levels are higher than they need to be.”

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