Folate

Folate is the common name for folic acid and related compounds which together make up one of the B group of vitamins necessary for healthy growth and development.

Page last updated: 06 July 2010

Folate is particularly important for the development of the nervous system and for preventing neural tube defects (NTDs) in babies.

It has been shown that simple, cost-effective measures such as encouraging women to increase their intake of folate can have a significant impact on the health of women and children. Studies show that an estimated 400 to 500 pregnancies are affected by NTDs in Australia each year. Evidence suggests that 50 to 70 per cent of these NTDs could be prevented if women of child bearing age boost their levels of folate intake at least one month before conceiving, and in the first three months of pregnancy.

Folate can be found in a number of foods including cereals, grains, fruits and green leafy vegetables. The National Health and Medical Research Council's recommended nutrient intake levels of folate for Australians can be found at: Executive Summary of Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand

Early initiatives

During the 1990's the Commonwealth Government funded the development of a number of resources designed to raise awareness of the importance of folate and to encourage women of childbearing age to increase their intake of folate. These resources include:

Folate Facts (1998) - a one page fact sheet on folate.

Eat It! The Facts on Folate! (1997) - a comic developed by Streetwize Comics to target women who may not use other types of educational material or rarely attend antenatal classes.

Helping to prevent neural tube defects: a pharmacist's and assistants' guide to folate (l997) - The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) featured this 8 page booklet on folate in the September 1997 issue of the Australian Pharmacist to target pharmacists and their professional development on folate.


Current situation

In September 2009, it became mandatory for folic acid to be added to all flour used for making bread (excluding organic bread). Fortifying bread with folic acid will increase the intake of this nutrient by Australians. More information on the fortification of food with folic acid can be found at: www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/fortification/ (This website link was valid at the time of submission)

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