Folate and neural tube defects. Recommendations from a Danish working group.Dan Med Bull. 1998 Apr; 45(2):213-7.DM
A working group was established to evaluate the need for an increased folate intake in Danish women to decrease the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). NTD are birth defects which include anencephaly, encephalocele and spina bifida. In Denmark the incidence is about 1.4 per 1,000 pregnancies. Folate is a B-vitamin found in most food groups. In case-control studies and randomised studies, a protective effect of folic acid supplements on NTDs has been found. The studies show that a periconceptional folic acid supplement of 360 micrograms to 4 mg daily decreases the recurrence rate of NTDs. Likewise, in the few studies which calculate folate intake from the diet, a lower risk of NTD with higher intake of folate from the diet has been found. The folate intake can be increased by the diet, by folic acid supplements or by fortification of food with folic acid. It is concluded that the incidence of NTDs in Denmark will decrease if the folate intake in fertile women increases. All women planning pregnancy should receive dietary counselling. Women who do not eat according to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, and women with an increased risk due to diseases are recommended a supplement of 400 micrograms folic acid daily from a multivitamin/folic acid tablet. Women who have had a child with NTD and women who themselves have NTDs are recommended a supplement of 5 mg folic acid daily. Dietary changes and supplements should be initiated when pregnancy is planned.