UK report may show true extent of folate deficiency, says DSM

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

When considering which nutrients to look into, we follow deficiencies, says DSM
When considering which nutrients to look into, we follow deficiencies, says DSM

Related tags Folate deficiency Folic acid Snack functional beverage beverage

Data from an upcoming UK Department of Health (DoH) report is likely to reveal the true extent of folate deficiency, according to nutrition multinational DSM.

The UK’s DoH told us recently it was holding out for data on population blood folate status before it made a decision on mandatory folate fortification of food​ - a debate that has been ticking over since the 90s when a Medical Research Council trial indicated that folic acid (vitamin B9) could help reduce the risk of neural tube defects by up to 72%.

Discussing the European launch of DSM folate supplement Metafolin at last week’s industry event HiE in Amsterdam, Jacob Bauly, global marketing manager for the firm, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the report due in the first half of 2015 revealed folate deficiency in the general population.

He told us that other national research had already suggested general populations had “sub-optimal levels” ​of folates, and indeed this kind of research often informed the company’s choice of which nutrients to develop. “If it shows there’s a deficiency in vitamin D we’ll develop that.”

However, he said that DSM would not be plugging maternal nutrition benefits with its new launch, as has been the main focus around folates, but would instead be pushing cardiovascular and cognitive benefits.

Plugging the gap

According to the German National Survey, which gathered data from 15,371 people, 79% men and 86% women in Germany were below the German, Austrian and Swiss (D-A-CH) recommended reference value for folic acid.

This deficiency prevalence was particularly evident amongst men and women aged 65-80 years.

Bauly said he believed Germany to be similar to other European countries in terms of folate consumption.

The data quoted by DSM refers to the 2000 recommendation of 400 μg per day of folate equivalents for adults, however earlier this year this was lowered to 300 μg/d for adults​. This new limit was in line with that of Netherlands, Ireland and France, but higher than the UK which set just 200 μg/d.

Meanwhile, following a request from the European Commission, this November the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)​ gave an average requirement (AR) of 250 µg dietary folate equivalents per day and a population reference intake (PRI) of 330 µg a day.

Rate of deficiency for men by age, German National Survey

65-80 y: 90%

51-64 y: 81%

35-50 y: 79%

25-34 y: 74%

19-24 y: 71%

14-18 y: 66% 

Rate of deficiency for women by age, German National Survey

65-80 y: 91%

51-64 y: 87%

35-50 y: 87%

25-34 y: 81%

19-24 y: 80%

14-18 y: 78% 

Left field focus

Metafolin (L-5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid, calcium salt) will be bought to market by DSM and manufactured by Merck. Bauly said that while maternal nutrition was undoubtedly a big market for folic and folate acid, due to the conditions of that partnership which seeks to protect Merck’s own maternal nutrition product, DSM will be focusing instead on cardiovascular and cognitive (like stress, memory and mood) benefits for the general population.

He said personal nutrition was also an avenue of possibility, since some people struggle to convert the nutrient. He added that prenatal foods like shakes were currently not such a big market in the EU, but that could be something DSM would be interested in developing.

Making claims

He said all health claims for folic acid and folate approved by EFSA could be made with Metafolin.

Currently claims included that for normal blood formation, cell division, maternal tissue growth during pregnancy, psychological functions, metabolism of the immune system, amino acid synthesis and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

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