Corn masa flour may lack vital nutrients necessary to prevent birth defects

Created: 06/19/2014 10:23 PM
By: Danielle Todesco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

There is something served up regularly in New Mexico that health officials believe lacks vital nutrients necessary to prevent birth defects.  Foods made with corn masa flour like corn tortillas are not fortified with folic acid.

NBC News reports that more than half of the babies born with birth defects in Washington state in recent years had a Mexican-American mother.  This has sparked the debate on whether corn masa products should have folic acid added to them.    

Doctors say folic acid can prevent neural tube defects early on in pregnancies by 70 percent.  Foods like bread and other wheat products have been fortified with folic acid since 1998, but not corn tortillas.

Erika Lima, who is pregnant with her second daughter, says she takes folic acid supplements.  But she agrees that maybe corn masa products should have folic acid as well.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea, I don't think because a lot of women, especially in our culture don't get informed very well or maybe they are getting informed but they don't really take it to heart as to how important it really is," Lima said.

Dr. Joey Tyner at UNM Hospital says all women of reproductive age, whether they are planning to have a baby or not, should take a folic acid supplement because the defects it prevents happen before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

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