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Folic Acid Supplements May Be Inadequate, Study Suggests

The level of folic acid that the government requires U.S. manufacturers to add to cereal, bread and pasta may be inadequate to protect people against heart disease or birth defects. Folic acid deficiencies have been linked to birth defects of the brain and spine as well as to high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Homocysteine, in turn, has been linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Previous studies have shown that 400 micrograms a day of folic acid can cut the risk of birth defects in half and restore homocysteine to normal levels. But a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, conducted before the guidelines took effect, found little change in the homocysteine levels of heart disease patients who ate breakfast cereal enriched with an entire day’s amount of folic acid.

Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II


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