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Every year, approximately 300,000 children around the world are born with neural tube defects (NTD), a failure of closure of the neural tube either in the cranial region or along the spine that result in anencephaly and spina bifida respectively. Infants born with anencephaly usually die within a few days of birth, and those with spina bifida typically live with various life-long disabilities and often experience mobility limitations.
Twenty years of rigorous research shows that adequate consumption of folic acid before and during the first trimester of pregnancy can prevent up to 50% – 70% of NTDs. As a result, in 1996 the FDA mandated that all food products made from enriched cereal grain flours be fortified with folic acid. Although the number of NTDs in the United States have been reduced by more than 30% since this mandate, there are still populations in this country and worldwide that can benefit from these safe and effective fortification programs.
This session of Public Health Grand Rounds focused on current efforts to further decrease the prevalence of NTDs in the United States, as well as discussed much needed global strategies to reduce the burden of NTDs worldwide through mandatory fortification of staple foods with folic acid.
- Joseph Mulinare, MD, MSPH
- Prevention Research Team Lead
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC
- William Dietz, MD, PhD
- Director, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC
- Richard B. Johnston, Jr., MD
- Professor of Pediatrics
University of Colorado School of Medicine
- Jessica Leighton, PhD, MPH
- Senior Advisor for Science, Office of Foods
Food and Drug Administration
- Tanja Popovic, MD, PhD
- Scientific Director
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Birth defects are serious conditions that involve changes to the structure of one or more parts of the body. Learn about research that is underway to identify risk factors for birth defects, and to develop key intervention strategies that can be used to help ensure that every child is born in the best possible health.
Neural tube defects are serious birth defects and a major cause of death and lifelong disability worldwide. Up to 85 percent of neural tube defects can be prevented if women consume enough folic acid before and during early pregnancy. Find out how fortifying grains with folic acid could prevent these defects.
- Page last reviewed: February 28, 2018
- Page last updated: February 28, 2018
- Content source:
- Office of the Associate Director for Science
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication