Breaking News
December 15, 2018 - Research offers hope for patients with serious bone marrow cancer
December 15, 2018 - Link between poverty and obesity is only about 30 years old, study shows
December 15, 2018 - Mass spectrometry throws light on old case of intentional heavy metal poisoning
December 15, 2018 - BeyondSpring Announces Phase 3 Study 105 of its Lead Asset Plinabulin for Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia Meets Primary Endpoint at Interim Analysis
December 15, 2018 - Study finds that in treating obesity, one size does not fit all
December 15, 2018 - Tenacity and flexibility help maintain psychological well-being, mobility in older people
December 15, 2018 - Study reveals role of brain mechanism in memory recall
December 15, 2018 - High levels of oxygen encourage the brain to remain in deep, restorative sleep
December 15, 2018 - Experimental HIV vaccine strategy works in non-human primates, research shows
December 15, 2018 - Genetically modified pigs could limit replication of classical swine fever virus, study shows
December 15, 2018 - FDA Approves Herzuma (trastuzumab-pkrb), a Biosimilar to Herceptin
December 15, 2018 - Cost and weight-loss potential matter most to bariatric surgery patients
December 15, 2018 - Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca open new Functional Genomics Centre
December 15, 2018 - New research lays out potential path for treatment of Huntington’s disease
December 15, 2018 - Prestigious R&D 100 Award presented to Leica Microsystems
December 15, 2018 - Study shows septin proteins detect and kill gut pathogen, Shigella
December 15, 2018 - Study sheds new light on disease-spreading mosquitoes
December 15, 2018 - 2017 Saw Slowing in National Health Care Spending
December 15, 2018 - Monitoring movement reflects efficacy of mandibular splint
December 15, 2018 - Study supports BMI as useful tool for assessing obesity and health
December 15, 2018 - Self-guided, internet-based therapy platforms effectively reduce depression
December 15, 2018 - Organically farmed food has bigger climate impact than conventional food production
December 15, 2018 - Faster, cheaper test has potential to enhance prostate cancer evaluation
December 15, 2018 - Researchers study abnormal blood glucose levels of patients after hospital discharge
December 15, 2018 - Swedish scientists explore direct association of dementia and ischemic stroke deaths
December 15, 2018 - Study finds 117% increase in number of dementia sufferers in 26 years
December 15, 2018 - Eczema Can Drive People to Thoughts of Suicide: Study
December 15, 2018 - Link between neonatal vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia confirmed
December 15, 2018 - Nurse denied life insurance because she carries naloxone
December 15, 2018 - Ritalin drug affects organization of pathways that build brain networks used in attention, learning
December 15, 2018 - Research pinpoints two proteins involved in creation of stem cells
December 15, 2018 - Gut bacteria may modify effectiveness of anti-diabetes drugs
December 15, 2018 - Breast cancer protection from pregnancy begins many decades later, study finds
December 15, 2018 - How often pregnant women follow food avoidance strategy to prevent allergy in offspring?
December 15, 2018 - Using machine learning to predict risk of developing life-threatening infections
December 15, 2018 - How imaginary friends could boost children’s development
December 15, 2018 - Folate deficiency creates more damaging chromosomal abnormalities than previously known
December 15, 2018 - Study provides new insights into molecular mechanisms underlying role of amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease
December 15, 2018 - For the asking, a check is in the mail to help pay for costly drugs
December 15, 2018 - UA scientists uncover biological processes leading to rare brain disorder in babies
December 15, 2018 - The largest database on industrial poisons
December 15, 2018 - ESMO Immuno-Oncology Congress showcases novel technologies set to benefit many cancer patients
December 15, 2018 - Ovid Therapeutics Announces Plans to Move into a Phase 3 Trial in Pediatric Patients Based on End-of-Phase 2 Meeting for OV101 in Angelman Syndrome
December 15, 2018 - Left ventricular noncompaction – Genetics Home Reference
December 15, 2018 - Children’s sleep not significantly affected by screen time, new study finds
December 15, 2018 - When should dementia patients stop driving? A new guidance for clinicians
December 15, 2018 - Researchers use INTEGRA’s VIAFLO 96/384 to streamline the experimental workflow
December 15, 2018 - Researchers discover protein involved in nematode stress response
December 15, 2018 - Cancer patients have greater risk of developing shingles, study shows
December 14, 2018 - UAlberta scientists identify biomarkers for detecting Alzheimer’s disease in saliva samples
December 14, 2018 - Study uncovers link between tube travel and spread of flu-like illnesses
December 14, 2018 - Caffeine plus another compound in coffee may fight Parkinson’s disease
December 14, 2018 - GW researchers review studies on treatments for prurigo nodularis
December 14, 2018 - Lack of peds preventive care ups unplanned hospital admissions
December 14, 2018 - Miscarriage: When Language Deepens Pain
December 14, 2018 - New method helps better understand pathological development of ALS
December 14, 2018 - Intellectually active lifestyle confers protection against neurodegeneration in Huntington’s patients
December 14, 2018 - Mammalian collagen nanofibrils become stronger and tougher with exercise
December 14, 2018 - Considerable Morbidity, Mortality Due to Animal Encounters
December 14, 2018 - Researchers find inhibiting one protein destroys toxic clumps seen in Parkinson’s disease
December 14, 2018 - How early physical therapy can lessen the long-term need for opioids
December 14, 2018 - Depression, suicide rates highest in Mountain West states
December 14, 2018 - New model could cure the potential to underestimate how quickly diseases spread
December 14, 2018 - Exercise-induced hormone activates cells critical for bone remodeling in mice
December 14, 2018 - Researchers discover new mechanism behind spread of malignant pleural mesothelioma
December 14, 2018 - Health Tip: Celebrate a Healthier Holiday
December 14, 2018 - Scalpel-free surgery enhances quality of life for Parkinson’s patients, study finds
December 14, 2018 - Early physical therapy can reduce risk, amount of long-term opioid use | News Center
December 14, 2018 - Genetic marker, predictor of early relapse in common childhood cancer discovered
December 14, 2018 - Study could lead to a potential new way of treating sepsis
December 14, 2018 - New protein complex helps embryonic stem cells to maintain their indefinite potential
December 14, 2018 - Salk professor receives $1.8 million from NOMIS Foundation for research on mechanisms to promote health
December 14, 2018 - New discovery will improve the safety and predictability of CRISPR
December 14, 2018 - Geneticists discover how sex-linked disorders arise
December 14, 2018 - New method to visualize small-molecule interactions inside cells
December 14, 2018 - Study describes mechanism that makes people more vulnerable to hunger-causing stimuli
December 14, 2018 - Chronic opioid therapy associated with increased healthcare spending and hospital stays
December 14, 2018 - Blood Types
December 14, 2018 - Obesity linked to increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer
December 14, 2018 - Blood test helps identify distinct molecular signatures in children with cystic fibrosis
Adding Folic Acid to Corn Masa Flour May Prevent Birth Defects

Adding Folic Acid to Corn Masa Flour May Prevent Birth Defects

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Latina eating a corn mesa tortilla (600x400)

Español

Red envelope icon Subscribe: FDA Consumer Health Information

If you’re a Latina who’s expecting a baby, your diet may be missing a key ingredient believed to help prevent certain kinds of birth defects.

That ingredient? Folic acid, which has long been used to fortify, or strengthen, certain enriched grains.

However, as CAPT Richardae Araojo, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Minority Health notes, “Hispanic women may not benefit from folic acid-enriched cereal grain products because these products are often not a staple in their diet.”

This could be a reason why Latinas represent the highest percentage of U.S. women giving birth to children with neural tube defects (NTDs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NTDs are birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord, such as anen­cephaly and spina bifida.

In 2016, FDA moved to help protect these women and their children by approving the addition of folic acid to corn masa flour, an ingredient in foods including tortillas, tacos, tortilla chips and tamales. Foods made from this flour are staple foods of Mexican and some Central and South American diets.

When consumed by pregnant women before and during pregnancy, folic acid—a B vitamin—may help to prevent neural tube defects.

Corn masa flour, sometimes called masa—Spanish for dough—is produced by cooking corn in alkali (a substance that has a bitter taste and then forms a salt when mixed with an acid), then grinding it.

An Important Preventive Step

In 1998, in response to a recommendation by CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service, FDA made it easier for many expectant mothers to consume folic acid. The agency required the addition of folic acid to standardized enriched cereal grains, such as enriched rice and flour, and standardized enriched cereal grain products, such as enriched bread and macaroni.

Refined grains are enriched when certain B vitamins are added back after processing. Standardized foods contain ingredients required by FDA and are produced in a specified way.

“The reasoning was that enough people—including expectant mothers—eat enriched grains as a matter of course. And that could make a difference in the number of neural tube defects,” says Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. In fact, the number of NTDs in the U.S. for all populations has since declined.

However, the incidence of neural tube defects in some Hispanic American populations has not declined to the same extent as in the general population.

So, FDA reviewed and approved a food additive petition from five organizations—the March of Dimes Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Spina Bifida Association, the National Council of La Raza, and Gruma Corporation—requesting that folic acid be added to corn masa flour. Manufacturers may now voluntarily add the amount of folic acid (up to 0.7 milligrams) per pound of corn masa flour that is consistent with the levels in the enriched cereal grains mandated in 1998.

“FDA approval of fortifying corn masa flour with folic acid is an important public health action to aid in the prevention of serious birth defects,” Araojo says.

Safety First

Before FDA could provide an approval, the agency first had to determine whether adding folic acid to corn masa flour is safe—not just for Latina mothers and mothers-to-be, but for men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, and demographics. FDA scientists conducted a thorough scientific review of the information provided in the petition and determined that adding this amount of folic acid to the food supply would be safe for the general population.

“In addition to reviewing the safety and projected consumption data, we had to verify that folic acid remained stable throughout the production process and didn’t break down into other harmful substances during manufacturing,” Keefe says.

After this intensive review, FDA was able to give the go-ahead to those manufacturers who want to add folic acid to their corn masa products.

Cynthia Pellegrini, senior vice president of public policy at the March of Dimes, says, “FDA worked closely with us to design a study that garnered the information needed to establish the safety of this action. We’re thrilled at the outcome and feel confident that it will address the disparities we’ve seen in the Latina community and will give even more babies a healthy start in life.”

If You’re Pregnant or Thinking of Becoming Pregnant

CDC recommends that for folic acid to help prevent some major birth defects, a woman should start consuming 400 mcg a day at least one month before she becomes pregnant and the entire time while she is pregnant. For masa, cereals and grain products, read the ingredient statement to see if the food has been enriched with folic acid.

Some easy ways to make sure to get enough folic acid are to:

  • Eat a bowl of an enriched breakfast cereal that has 100% of the Daily Value of folic acid.
  • Eat other enriched cereal grain products mandated to contain folic acid.
  • Take a vitamin or multivitamin supplement that contains folic acid each day.

Talk to your health care provider about what’s best for you.

Updated: January 9, 2018

back to top



Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles