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Folic acid nutritional status of British Columbia Indian populations Porritt, Barbara

Abstract

Recent studies suggest that folic acid nutritional status may be poor among Canadian Indians, particularly among those living in isolated areas. However the prevalence and causes of folic acid deficiency have not been assessed. The present study was conducted in order to assess the magnitude of the problem among British Columbia Indians and to examine the possible relationship between low dietary intakes of folic acid and the occurrence of low blood folate values. Using a 24-hour diet recall, dietary folate intakes were estimated at four relatively isolated Indian reserves (106 subjects) and at three reserves adjacent to urban centres (144 subjects). A more detailed study, involving estimation of dietary folate intake, measurement of serum and red blood cell folate, and examination of related hematological parameters was undertaken at one isolated reserve (Fort Ware, 28 subjects) and two non-isolated reserves (Necoslie and Sechelt, 63 subjects) as well as at a school residence (70 children, age 6 to 16 years). Meal samples were collected and assayed for folic acid, in order to verify the recall calculations. Results indicate that calculated and assayed folate values are similar and are significantly correlated (r=.9694). Total folate consumption is significantly higher at non-isolated reserves than at isolated reserves, and males consume significantly more folic acid than do females. Dietary folic acid intake is higher at the residence than at the reserves. Serum folate values are significantly correlated with dietary folate intake. Serum values are lower at Fort Ware than at Necoslie and Sechelt. Children living on reserves have lower serum folate values than do children living in residence, and have a larger proportion of children classified as "at risk". On the basis of red cell folate values, 16 to 45% of the subjects at the three reserves are classified as "at risk", however, no evidence of megaloblastic anemia is indicated from the hematological examinations. It is concluded that many individuals are either bordering on or are deficient with respect to folic acid. This appears to be a more serious problem at isolated reserves than at those adjacent to urban centres and it is suggested that this is a consequence of the availability, variety and selection of foods.

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