A Danish study is concerned about the fetal mortality rate in Europe, which would be closely linked to the lack of folic acid supplementation of food for pregnant women.
This large international study listing 9 million birth certificates over 11 years fuels the debate on food supplementation with folic acid in Europe for pregnant women.
According to its projections, nearly 5,000 fetuses are affected each year by spina bifida on the Old Continent, or about 9.17 cases per 10,000 births. This disease is associated with low levels of folic acid in the mother during pregnancy. The degree of impairment in infants is variable. Spina bifida is sometimes asymptomatic, then called spina bifida occulta, but it can also result in the formation of bags (cysts) or a complete opening of the spine leaving the spinal cord exposed. This form can be accompanied by severe neurological damage, below the level of the malformation. The degree of impairment in infants is variable. If 70% of the pregnancies concerned reach their term, the risks of morbidity and mortality remain very high after birth.
France and Europe lagging behind other countries
Why has Europe not adopted a folic acid enrichment policy when 70 non-European countries, including the United States, Australia and Canada in particular, have been doing so for several years? Resulting in a 50% reduction in spina bifida cases.
The reason would mainly be a fear of the side effects of such an approach. But according to hindsight on this method in the countries concerned, at the doses used, no collateral damage would have been observed.
2500 cases could be avoided per year in Europe
Faced with this observation, Danish researchers call on European decision-makers to take their responsibilities. European women have plasma folate levels half of WHO recommendations and lack of action would have a high price.
In Europe, 2,500 cases per year could be avoided with folic acid fortification, which could reduce health expenditure by almost 33 million euros, the authors estimate.
Rima Obeid et al. : Preventable spina bifida and anencephaly in Europe. Clinical and Molecular Teratology