Embargoed for Release 4 p.m. ET, June 19, 2001
CDC Media Relations Division
Neural Tube Birth Defects Down by 19 Percent
Since Food Fortification
Fortification, Educational Outreach and More Awareness
May Contribute to Decline
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that neural tube defects
(NTD), a debilitating birth defect, has decreased by 19 percent following folic acid
fortification in the U.S. food supply.
The study, "The Impact of Folic Acid Fortification of the U.S. Food Supply on the
Occurrence of Neural Tube Defects," is published in the June 20th issue of the Journal
of the American Medical Association.
"This is exciting health news that fortification coupled with increased educational
outreach efforts and vitamin supplements are working to reduce these types of birth
defects," said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. "The efforts of CDC and FDA have
significantly contributed to promoting health and wellness of our future generations."
For almost ten years, CDC and the US Public Health Service have recommended that all women
of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to decrease the risk of NTD,
such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Numerous scientific studies have shown that folic acid
dramatically reduces these serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. CDC researchers
report that there are about 800 more healthy babies being born in the U.S. which coincides
with the folic acid fortification in the U.S. food supply.
In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), authorized the addition of folic acid to
enriched grain products, which became mandatory in 1998. Fortification is estimated to provide
an additional 100 micrograms of folic acid to the diet of reproductive-aged women which helps
more women attain the necessary 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Women can also get the
necessary 400 micrograms that are required by taking a vitamin containing folic acid daily.
This level of folic acid can prevent 50-70% of these serious birth defects, but only if women
consume folic acid before and during early pregnancy.
"This reduction is an excellent step and represents the work of many partners in the
fight against these serious birth defects, but it is not enough," said Jeffrey P. Koplan,
M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC. "We must continue the momentum to have a Nation of healthy
babies born without neural tube defects. We must stay vigilant and continue to work together
to educate women of childbearing age, their families and health care professionals about the
contribution of folic acid, education and fortification of our foods."
For more information about CDC's work on folic acid and birth defects, please see our web
site at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/default.htm.
For a copy of this study, please see the Journal of the American Medical Association web
site at: http://jama.ama-assn.org
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people's health and safety by
preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing
credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong
partnerships with local, national and international organizations.