Despite the United States enriching cereals, grains, pasta, and breads, many Hispanic women are not getting the recommended levels of folic acid in their diet.
Since 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required that all enriched cereal grains be fortified with 140 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. The requirement does not include corn masa flour. While fortification of corn masa flour became permissible in 2016, it is not mandatory.
According to a study by the Center for Spina Bifida Prevention at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, researchers analyzed corn masa and corn tortilla products in 11 grocery stores in northeast Atlanta that cater to Hispanic residents. Only two of 20 corn masa flour products, and none of the 21 soft corn tortilla products, were labeled as containing folic acid.
Researchers say that while the study was in one small area, the tortillas were national brands, meaning that the results can be a projected nationwide.
“If what we found in the Atlanta market is true nationwide – and we think it is, because we tested national brands – this means folic acid is not reaching the intended population – that being many Hispanic people who consume foods made with corn masa flour,” said senior study author Dr. Godfrey Oakley Jr.
The best way for any woman to make sure she’s getting enough folic acid in her diet is to add 400 mcg of the vitamin B-9 to their daily routine. Folic acid is available over the counter and can cost as little as one penny a day.
Folic Acid supplements are proven to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly if taken 3-12 months before conception.
You can read the full study on JAMA from October 16, 2018.