A report in the journal Circulation suggests that enriched grain products such as fortified flour could help cut stroke deaths.
Quanhe Yang, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and his team tracked stroke deaths from 1990 to 2002 in the U.S., Canada, England, and Wales. In these countries, stroke deaths have been on the decline. The study only tracked stroke deaths, not stroke-related disability.
In both the U.S. and Canada, stroke deaths declined at a faster rate after mandatory folic acid fortification in 1996 and 1998 respectvely. In England and Wales, where folic acid fortification is not required, the decline in stroke deaths didn’t speed up.
The researchers conclude that these findings support the idea that folic acid fortification cuts stroke deaths.
Deaths due to stroke were already declining in both countries, but the rate of sped up in the years after folic acid fortification.
From 1998 to 2002, for example, U.S. stroke deaths dropped nearly 3% each year. This amounted to about 13,000 fewer stroke deaths per year for people aged 40 and older. From 1990 to 1997, the decrease had been only 0.3%.
In Canada, the study shows, stroke deaths dropped 1% per year from 1990 to 1997 and 5.4% yearly from 1998 to 2002.
The rate of decline in stroke deaths in England and Wales remained about the same during that time.
“Additional studies are urgently needed to either prove or disprove what we observed,” Yang says in the news release.