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Warning against folic acid-fortified flour

Experts have challenged the consensus that fortifying flour with folic acid will be wholly beneficial to people's health.

In June this year the Food Standards Agency agreed that "mandatory fortification" of flour with folic acid should be introduced to reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects.

However, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that too much folic acid may cause more damage than good.

"Fortifying UK flour with folic acid would reduce the incidence of neural tube defects," said Sian Astley of the Institute of Food Research.

"However, with doses of half the amount being proposed for fortification in the UK, the liver becomes saturated and unmetabolised folic acid floats around the blood stream."

Dr Astley adds that this could cause problems for people being treated for leukaemia, arthritis, ectopic pregnancies and bowel cancer.

"We challenge the underlying scientific premise behind this consensus," said Dr Astley.

"This has important implications for the use of folic acid in fortification, because even at low doses it could lead to over consumption of folic acid with its inherent risks."

British Journal of Nutrition