The US and Britain are planning to add folic acid to foods to reduce the risk of spina bifida babies. But new research shows this is only half the story, and that women low in B12 could also be more likely to have a handicapped child.
The new findings, made by researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland could force health authorities to reconsider their next moves.
The authorities had been criticized for potentially exposing large segments of the population not at risk to levels of folic acid far above the daily recommended intake.
With the research findings from the NIH, they could now decrease levels of folic acid and supplement them with B12, or include the vitamin in foods.
The study group examined a group of 404 women in Dublin, Ireland between 1986 and 1990, 81 of whom gave birth to a baby with a neural tube defect, usually spina bifida. Researchers discovered that the 81 women had low to normal levels of B12 in their blood, which causes an increase in two acids, homocysteine and methylmalonic, present in women giving birth to spina bifida babies.