Folate and neural tube defects: The role of supplements and food fortification

Canadian Paediatric Society
Canadian Paediatric Society
Publication date:
01 April 2016


Periconceptional folic acid significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects. It is difficult to achieve optimal levels of folate by diet alone, even with fortification of flour, especially because flour consumption in Canada is slightly decreasing. Intermittent concerns have been raised concerning possible deleterious effects of folate supplementation, including the masking of symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency and an association with cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Both concerns have been disproved. The Canadian Paediatric Society endorses the following steps to enhance folate intake in women of child-bearing age: encouraging the consumption of folate-rich foods such as leafy vegetables, increasing the level of folate food fortification, taking a supplement containing folate and B12, and providing free folate supplementation to disadvantaged women of child-bearing age.