We are pleased to announce our next Lunchtime Seminar showcasing “Folic acid fortification of Food: The Long and Winding Road” presented by Professor Helene McNulty, Director of the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) and Professor of Human Nutrition & Dietetics at Ulster University, Coleraine, Northern Ireland. The seminar will take place on Friday 18th February at 13.00 – 14.00 via Microsoft Teams.
Helene McNulty is Director of nutrition research (NICHE) and Professor of Human Nutrition & Dietetics at Ulster University. She is an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy and Fellow of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. Helene’s research programme is aimed at providing greater understanding of nutrition-related health through the lifecycle and contributing to food and health policy internationally. She has particular expertise in folate and related B vitamins and has published extensively in this field, building impacts from early to late life. In her academic role, Helene is actively involved in teaching at undergraduate and masters levels in Food, Nutrition & Dietetics, and to date has supervised 33 PhD students to successful completion.
Over 30 years ago it was proved beyond doubt that folic acid supplementation of mothers in early pregnancy protects against neural tube defects (NTDs) in their babies. This conclusive scientific evidence led to clear recommendations for women of reproductive age, which are in place worldwide: to prevent NTDs, women are recommended to take 400 micrograms per day of folic acid, from before conceiving until the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. Implementing this recommendation in practice has, however, proved to be problematic. In September 2021, the UK government announced that flour will be fortified with folic acid on a mandatory basis. The evidence leading to this decision, and the challenges in relation to policy in this area, will be presented. Why has it taken so long to reach this point, and what are the next steps in order to best ensure that the benefit of folic acid fortification can be achieved for mothers and their babies is a safe and effective way?