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Keywords:

  • folate;
  • folic acid;
  • plasma folate status;
  • dietary folate intake;
  • women of childbearing age;
  • neural tube defects

Abstract

Maternal folic acid deficiency is an underlying risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). China has one of the highest prevalences of NTDs, and the prevalence rates of NTDs vary by region. We characterized plasma folate level and dietary folate intake among Chinese women of childbearing age by region (North and South, East and West, urban and rural) to provide evidence for establishing policy to prevent NTDs. A total of 1003 women of childbearing age from five provinces in China were interviewed. Fasting blood samples were collected. Plasma folate concentrations were determined by a microbiological assay. Dietary intake data were collected using a 24-h recall. Both the plasma folate concentrations and dietary folate intake of women in the South (25.9 nmol L−1 and 211.0 µg day−1) were higher than those of women in the North (13.3 nmol L−1 and 189.2 µg day−1). In the North, plasma folate concentrations and dietary folate intake of women in rural areas were lower than those of women in urban areas, whereas, in the South, an opposite pattern was observed. No difference was found between women in the East and West, in either the North or South regions. Plasma folate and dietary folate intake among Chinese women of childbearing age were suboptimal and varied by region. Different folic acid supplementation approaches and dosage should be undertaken to improve folate status of women in different areas. Particular attention should be paid to women in the North, especially in northern rural areas.