Purpose of review: to examine the impact of folic acid fortification, including its use as a functional food component, on human health. Recent findings: there is a consensus view that folic acid supplementation has numerous health benefits, many of which are significant in their impact. However, emerging evidence suggests that increased population exposure to folic acid may also have a negative impact with respect to certain developmental and degenerative disorders. As examples, presently much attention is focused on the role of folic acid fortification augmenting colon cancer risk, whereas earlier in the life cycle, the vitamin may additionally influence insulin resistance. Without question, conditions that are influenced by folic acid are both diverse and many – from concerns relating to cognitive decline, breast cancer and vascular disease through to preconceptional issues where maternal folate levels might conceivably alter the phenotype of offspring via epimutations. Summary: the highly complex and critical biological importance of folic acid-related molecular nutrition makes it a difficult micronutrient to deploy as a simple intervention at a population level – it has far too many biochemical spheres of influence to predict effects in a generalized way. Additionally, several gene variants and other nutrients are interactive factors. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the scientific community does not have a true consensus view on whether mandatory fortification is appropriate as a population measure. This latter point not withstanding, any ultimate decisions on fortification should be well rooted in scientific fact rather than political expediency.
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care Vol. 12, Issue 6, p. 555-564