Since 1998, white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal have been fortified with folic acid in Canada and the United States. The purpose was to decrease the amount of neural tube defects in newborns – caused by insufficient folic acid in the first trimester – and was a huge success.

However, Hispanic women are still at increased risk of having babies with neural tube defects. Could fortifying tortillas with folic acid be the solution?

Possibly. But there is a problem. Nixtamalization, the process that makes untreated corn easier to grind involves soaking the kernels in an alkaline solution, like calcium hydroxide. There is concern that the stability of the folic acid will be affected by this process and may even yield dangerous chemicals.

Let’s not forget that there are already many other flours that are fortified with folic acid along with other foods that are naturally loaded with folate like beans and leafy green vegetables.

Perhaps educating Hispanic women on the importance of adequate folate intake would suffice.

For more:

Why tortillas may hold the key to healthier babies by NPR

Tacos and neural tube defects by

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