The term folate intake is used to represent folate that occurs naturally in food as well as folic acid from fortified foods and dietary supplements. Mothers have an increased risk for giving birth to infants with spina bifida and other neural tube defects if their folate status is inadequate during early pregnancy. Improved total folate intake is warranted in targeted subgroups, which includes women of childbearing age. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the folate intake based on the recommended total folate from natural foods, fortified foods and supplements for reproductive aged females. Studies, conducted in the United States and internationally, published between 2002 -2010 were identified through a library search of databases and an examination of reference lists of relevant publications. Studies included those that involved females 15 years and older and examined their folate intake. Only articles published in peer reviewed journals in English were included in this review. Ten studies were identified that met the review criteria.
Findings from this review suggest that there has been some progress since the 1998 implementation of fortification of cereal products and the recommendation for women who are planning a pregnancy to take 400 μg of folic acid a day in supplements. However given that consumption of folic acid is an important public health goal to prevent neural tube defect and as many pregnancies are unplanned, an evaluation of strategies including those targeting specific cultural and ethnic groups is needed for females of reproductive age.
Keywords: Women of reproductive age, folate, folic acid, folic acid fortification, preconception care, prepregnancy nutrition, folate intake, dietary supplements, fortified foods, infants, spina bifida, natural foods