a1 National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd, MS E-86, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
a2 The Healthy Children Foundation, San Pedro Sula, Honduras and Newton, MA, USA
a3 Secretaria de Salud, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Background Observational studies and clinical trials have shown conclusive evidence that periconceptional folic acid supplementation prevents up to 70 % of neural tube defects (NTD). The Honduran government wanted to implement a supplementation programme of folic acid but needed to assess the relative effects of two dosages of folic acid.
Objective To determine the effect of two dosages of folic acid on blood folate levels in Honduran female factory workers aged 18 to 49 years.
Design This was a randomized, double-blind control supplementation trial conducted in Choloma, Honduras. A total of 140 eligible women were randomly assigned to two dosage groups and followed up for 12 weeks. One group received a daily dosage of 1 mg folic acid and the other a once weekly dosage of 5 mg. Serum folate and red blood cell folate levels were determined by radioassay at baseline, 6 weeks and 12 weeks.
Results Serum folate levels increased from 6·3 (se 0·2) to 14·9 (se 0·6) ng/ml (P < 0·0001) in women assigned to the 1 mg/d group and from 6·9 (se 0·3) to 10·1 (se 0·4) ng/ml (P < 0·0001) in those assigned to the 5 mg/week group. Red blood cell folate concentrations also increased significantly in both groups, albeit more slowly. Educational level, age and BMI were not associated with the changes in serum and red blood cell folate levels during the supplementation period. However, a differential effect on serum folate levels by dosage group and time was observed.
Conclusions Although both folate supplementation regimens increased serum and red blood cell folate levels significantly among the women studied, blood folate levels that are considered to be protective of NTD were reached faster with the daily dosage of 1 mg folic acid.
(Received March 15 2007)
(Accepted March 06 2008)