Folate and health: present and future

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  2. Folate and health: present and future

“…studies reflect the present and future of the active and vibrant area that is folate research.”

In 1998, government-mandated fortification of cereal and grain products with folic acid was instituted in the United States and Canada to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida, anencephaly). Since then folic acid fortification has been instituted in over 50 countries. For its intended purpose, it has been one of the most successful public health interventions in history, with neural tube defect rates reduced by ∼20–50%. There has also been a dramatic reduction in the prevalence of folate deficiency in the general population, as indicated by blood folate and homocysteine concentrations. With the success of folic acid fortification, some may be tempted to conclude that the story of folate is essentially concluded. There remains, however, much to be understood about this essential micronutrient.

This issue of “Molecular Nutrition & Food Research” is dedicated to state-of-the art research on folate and its associations with multiple health outcomes. Folate is critical for two central biologic processes, specifically the synthesis of nucleotides for incorporation into

DNA and RNA, and methylation reactions via the provision of S-adenosylmethionine. These are critical functions that impact myriad biological processes, particularly fetal and child development and cancer initiation and progression. In addition, inherited genetic variation in folate metabolism is common and can directly affect the distribution of metabolites and thus health endpoints.

This special issue highlights human and experimental studies, as well as methodological research and mathematical modeling approaches to address a multitude of questions linking folate to health and disease. Key issues that are explored include the modeling of folate metabolism, the response to folic acid supplementation as influenced by genetic factors

and pregnancy, the influence of folate on molecular aspects of pregnancy outcomes and development, and the role of folate in intestinal and colorectal cancers. These studies reflect the present and future of the active and vibrant area that is folate research.