In a review of births in 21 states, a year before the fortification was authorized, it was found there were significant decreases in the incidences of spina bifida and anencephaly, two neural tube defects that result in spine and brain damage.
But the study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Alabama, also found that there was a racial disparity, with children born to black women less likely to be protected, possibly because of genetic differences, or less education.
The study has recommended that programs which aim to educate about the importance of taking folic acid supplements and eating food high in folic acid and natural folate among women of all racial/ethnic groups should be continued.
Folic acid, a B vitamin is found in such foods as leafy green vegetables, beans and orange juice.
It is also in enriched grain products including breads and pasta.
Women have been advised for many for years, to eat such foods and also take supplements during pregnancy to avoid neural tube defects.