Author(s): Mohammed E. Hefni, Mohamed T. Shalaby, Rasha A. Mohamed, Ahmad M. Elwa, Cornelia M. Witthöft
The Egyptian government introduced wheat-flour fortification with iron and folic acid to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, but suspended it for technical reasons. We previously developed novel legume foods with enhanced folate content. In this study, we investigated the efficacy of 12-week intervention with folate-enhanced foods versus folic acid supplement in improving folate status in Egyptian women. A randomized, parallel intervention trial with two active groups (n = 19, n = 18) and one blinded control group (n = 20) was executed over 12 weeks. Volunteers received either germinated legume foods and orange juice (≈250 μg/d folate) or folic acid supplement (500 μg/d) or apple juice (0 μg/d folate). Folate status was assessed by erythrocyte and plasma folate and total homocysteine (tHcy) at day 0, and after 8 and 12 weeks of intervention. After 12 weeks, mean plasma folate increased by 14 (P < 0.0001) and 12 (P < 0.0001) nmoL in the folic acid and food group, respectively. Erythrocyte folate concentration increased in the folic acid group from 614 to 912 (P < 0.0001) and in the food group from 631 to 914 nmoL (P < 0.0001). After 12 weeks, 90% of subjects in the folic acid group and 70% in the food group had erythrocyte folate concentrations exceeding 906 nmol/L. tHcy concentration was decreased by 20% (P = 0.007) and 18% (P = 0.006) in the folic acid and food group, respectively, but remained unchanged in the control group during intervention. Folate-enhanced foods effectively improve folate status in women of reproductive age. These foods could be used as a complement to folic acid fortification.
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