National food-fortification program with folic acid in Chile.Food Nutr Bull. 2008 Jun; 29(2 Suppl):S231-7.FN
The Chilean Ministry of Health legislated to add folic acid (2.2 mg/100 g) to wheat flour to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD), beginning in January 2000. This policy resulted in a significant increase in serum and red blood cell folate in women of childbearing age 1 year after fortification. The frequency of NTD was studied in all births, both live and stillbirths, in a prospective hospital-based design including 25% of national births during 1999-2000 (prefortification period) and 2001-2002 (postfortification period). During the prefortification period, there was a total of 120,566 newborns, and the NTD rate was 17.1/10,000 births. During the postfortification period (2001-2002) there was a total of 117,704 newborns, and the NTD rate was significantly reduced by 43% to 9.7/10,000 births (RR = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.71). This implies a reduction of 43% in the rate of NTD. The costs per NTD case and infant death averted were 1,200 international dollars (I$) and I$11,000, respectively. The cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted was I$91, or 0.8% of the country's per capita GDP. On the overall, fortification resulted in net cost savings of I$1.8 million. Fortification of wheat flour with folic acid has proven to be an effective and cost saving strategy for the primary prevention of NTD in a middle-income country in a postepidemiological transition, and in a dramatically short period of time.