Dietary and blood folate status of Malaysian women of childbearing age.Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2006; 15(3):341-9.AP
The protective role of folic acid taken during the periconceptual period in reducing the occurrence of neural tube defects (NTD) has been well documented by epidemiological evidence, randomized controlled trials and intervention studies. Much of the evidence is derived from western populations while similar data on Asian subjects is relatively nascent. Baseline data on folate status of Malaysian women is lacking, while NTD prevalence is estimated as 10 per 10,000 births. This study was conducted with the objective of determining the dietary and blood folate status of Malaysian women of childbearing age. A total of 399 women comprising 140 Malay, 131 Chinese and 128 Indian subjects were recruited from universities and worksites in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. Inclusion criteria were that the subjects were not pregnant or breastfeeding, not taking folic acid supplements, not habitual drinkers or smokers. Based on a 24-hour recall, the median intake level for folate was 66 microg (15.7-207.8 microg), which amounts to 16.5% of the Malaysian Recommended Nutrient Intakes level. The median (5-95th percentiles) values for plasma and red cell folate (RBC) concentrations were 11 (4-33) nmol/L and 633 (303-1209) nmol/L respectively. Overall, nearly 15.1% showed plasma folate deficiency (< 6.8 nmol/L), with Indian subjects having the highest prevalence (21.5%). Overall prevalence of RBC folate deficiency (<363 nmol/L) was 9.3%, and an almost similar level prevailed for each ethnic group. Only 15.2% had RBC concentration exceeding 906 nmol/L, which is associated with a very low risk of NTD. The result of this study point to the need for intervention strategies to improve the blood folate status of women of childbearing age, so that they have adequate protection against the occurrence of NTD at birth.