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Folate status and knowledge of Sikh women of childbearing age living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia Desai, Dipika


Sikh population is at a higher risk for having neural tube defects (NTD) affected pregnancies compared to the general Canadian population. The women capable of becoming pregnant are recommended to increase the consumption of folic acid to reduce the risk of NTD. This descriptive study of 45 Sikh women between the ages of 18 - 45 years living in the Lower Mainland, BC, assessed their folate status, knowledge level of folate and neural tube defects, and beliefs regarding diet and pregnancy. The folate intake was estimated using seven 24 hour dietary recalls conducted over a period of 4 weeks and included representative number of weekdays and weekend days. The red blood cell folate and plasma homocysteine analysis on the blood samples of these women were performed by the BC Biomedical Laboratories. An interviewer administered questionnaire was used to determine the level of folate knowledge and their beliefs regarding diet and pregnancy. Folic acid fortification increased folate intake by 121 ± 53 μg synthetic folic acid (SFA)/day from 291 ± 75 dietary folate equivalents (DFE)/day to 492 ± 132 DFE/day. For regular user, supplements contributed an average of 351 ± 267 μg SFA/day. The mean daily folate intake from all sources was 727 ± 420 DFE/day and 96% women were meeting the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR; 320 DFE/day). However, only 24% women were meeting the special recommendation of 400 μg SFA/day for women capable of becoming pregnant. The mean red blood cell folate level 958 ± 213 nmol/L and 56% women had levels > 906 nmol/L, which is associated with reduced risk of NTD. The mean plasma homocysteine level was 7.3 ± 2.5 nmol/L. Only half of the women had heard of folate and the most common sources of this information were doctors, magazines/newspaper and school. Lack of awareness and belief that diet supplies enough folic acid were the most common reasons provided by the Sikh women for not taking a supplement. Most women believed that diet played an important role in pregnancy. Strategies are required to increase the knowledge of Sikh women regarding folate and neural tube defects.

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