Festschrift: Professor Jenkins
Haematological implications of folate food fortification
Reports from some Western countries indicate that mandatory folate food fortification (FFF) has substantially reduced the prevalence of folate deficiency, leading to calls for folate testing following FFF to be limited to specific indications such as macrocytic anaemia. This is premature for low-income countries, where folate deficiency is predominantly the result of poor intake coupled with the increasing demand in pregnancy. There is also evidence that HIV infection is prejudicial to folate nutrition, and low-income HIV-infected women and their offspring could be among the most susceptible to folate deficiency. In assessing folate nutrition, the value of serum folate has been compromised by FFF, and both serum and red cell folate are necessary for optimal assessment of folate status. Although the limited data available suggest that large-scale masking of vitamin B12 deficiency by FFF has not occurred, it has been suggested that B12 be incorporated into folate-fortified foods. However, significant B12 deficiency is usually due to malabsorption, and physiological doses added to food would be of questionable value because they would not be absorbed. Extensive work, especially randomised clinical trials, must be done before dietary intervention with B12 on a national scale can be justified.
Jack Metz, Former Director of the South African Institute for Medical Research and Professor of Pathology (Haematological), School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Date published: 2013-10-11
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