Folic acid not only helps the body produce healthy red blood cells, but also helps to reduce the risk of babies developing neural tube defects (NTD), such as spina bifida. This is why women who are trying for a baby are advised to take folic acid supplements. However, increasing the amount of folic acid we eat could make it harder to spot a deficiency of vitamin B12, which can lead to neurological damage. This is an issue for older people as it can become more difficult to absorb vitamin B12 as we get older.
The Board also agreed at the Aberdeen meeting to re-examine the issue of vitamin B12 deficiency in relation to older people.
There will be further information available in the future as a result of surveillance in countries such as Chile, which has already introduced mandatory fortification.
The Board nevertheless recognised the clear benefits of fortification in relation to neural tube defects.