Consuming Tea With Folate, Vitamin B12 May Counter Health Problems In Women: Study | Health
Boosting the nutritional value of tea by adding folate and vitamin B12 may help counter the high levels of anemia and neural tube defects associated with widespread nutritional deficiencies in Indian women, according to a new study.
The results of the study were published in the online journal “BMJ Nutrition Prevention and Health”.
Most Indian women of childbearing age eat unbalanced diets, resulting in chronic folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies.
Although many countries have been successful in fortifying flour with folate nationally to prevent neural tube defects, logistical issues make this strategy difficult to implement in India.
Indeed, about 70 percent of the population lives in more than 650,000 rural villages, where cereals are most often grown, ground and purchased locally. And diets vary widely based on cultural, religious and ethnic differences and beliefs.
Besides water, tea is the most consumed drink in India. It is inexpensive and is largely grown and processed in the highlands of just 4 states: Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.
A single daily cup could therefore provide an ideal vehicle for fortification with these water-soluble vitamins, the study authors believed.
To test this, they divided 43 young women (average 20 years old) from Sangli in Maharashtra state into three groups.
Women were instructed to use tea bags containing therapeutic doses of 1 mg folate plus 0.1 mg vitamin B12 (group 1; 19 women) or 0.5 mg vitamin B12 (group 2, 19 women), or use unfortified tea bags (group 0, 5 women) in one cup of tea per day for 2 months.
Their serum vitamin and hemoglobin levels were compared at the start and end of the study period.
Most of the women had anemia with low to normal serum folate levels and lower than normal serum vitamin B12 levels at the start of the study.
After 2 months, there were significant mean increases in serum folate levels of 8.37 ng / ml and 6.69 ng / ml in groups 1 and 2, respectively, compared to an increase of 1.26 ng / ml in women in group 0.
Serum vitamin B12 levels increased to more than 300 pg / ml in more than half of the women in group 1 and in two-thirds of those in group 2. Average hemoglobin levels also increased by 1.45 g / dl in group 1 and 0.79 g / dl in group 2.
This is a feasibility study, involving a small number of participants, so larger comparative studies would be needed before any definitive conclusions could be drawn, the study authors said.
But they suggested that fortified tea could potentially be used in India in two ways: as a daily therapeutic dose of folate and vitamin B12 for anyone with borderline or low folate / vitamin B12 levels; in a lower (maintenance) dose to ensure that the hundreds of millions of people who subsist on a nutritionally poor diet can still get these two nutrients every day.
The authors concluded, “Tea is an exceptional evolutionary vehicle for folate and vitamin B12 fortification in India, and has the potential to help eliminate hematologic and neurologic complications resulting from food consumption or inadequate absorption of folate and vitamin B12. ”
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