Folic acid supplements during early pregnancy could reduce the risk of cleft lip in infants by 33 per cent, says a new study from Norway that appeared in the British Medical Journal.
Norway has no folic acid fortification program in place and the country is said to have one of the highest rates of facial clefts in Europe. The new study, by researchers from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Norway’s University of Bergen, University of Oslo, Oslo’s Rikshospitalet, and Haukeland University Hospital, identified infants born between 1996 to 2000; 377 with cleft lip (with or without cleft palate), 196 with cleft palate only, and 763 healthy controls. After adjusting for smoking and other confounding factors, folic acid supplementation of 400 micrograms or more a day reduced the risk of cleft lip with or without cleft palate by 40 per cent. The lowest risk of cleft lip was among women with folate rich diets who also took folic acid supplements and multivitamins, said the researchers.