[Differences in folic-acid policy and the prevalence of neural-tube defects in Europe; recommendations for food fortification in a EUROCAT report].Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2005 Nov 12; 149(46):2561-4.NT
The European Registration Of Congenital Anomalies and Twins (EUROCAT), a network of 40 European registries of congenital anomalies, has published a special report on the prevention of neural-tube defects by, periconceptional folic-acid supplementation in Europe. This report reviews the progress made in 17 European countries since i99I in terms of developing and implementing public health policies to raise periconceptional folate status. Data on the prevalence of neural-tube defects in 1980-2000 were also analysed. - At the beginning of 2002, 10 of the 17 countries had an official government recommendation that women planning a pregnancy should take folic-acid supplementation daily. Only 7 countries implemented official health-education initiatives. - Despite the various measures taken to date, the majority of women in all countries surveyed are not taking periconceptional folic-acid supplements. Even in the Netherlands, where the percentage of planned pregnancies is estimated at 85%, only 36% of women take folic-acid supplements during the advised period. - Overall, the number of neural-tube defects has not decreased in Europe. A slight decrease was seen in those countries with an official policy regarding periconceptional folic-acid supplementation. - It is clear from the report that more effective prevention of neuraltube defects could be achieved with folic-acid fortification of staple foods; this approach has led to a reduction in the prevalence of neuraltube defects in the US and Canada. This approach can also prevent the majority of neural-tube defects in unplanned pregnancies and reduce the socioeconomic differences in prevalence.