Determining folate content in some Fijian foods.

Folate is the general name given to this group of water-soluble B9 vitamins that perform similar tasks but differ from each other in their structure.  Folate derivatives play very important roles in the body. It’s most important role is as carriers for one –carbon units required for important metabolic pathways. Folate is also involved in the synthesis of RNA and DNA. The term folic acid has become synonymous with the term folate, but is in fact the synthetic form of this vitamin, and the form that is present in vitamin supplemts and fortified foods.

Folate has over the years received a lot of attention due to its links to a number of illnesses, such as neural tube defects (NTDs), megaloblastic anemia, and cardiovascular diseases, some forms of cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The daily ingestion of folate is therefore essential.

Knowledge of folate content of foods in Fiji is required to control folate deficiency related illnesses. In Fiji a number of studies have focused on other vitamins, such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B3 and C. These studies have resulted in the adoption of these analyses in the Institute of Applied Science which in turn has led to the analysis of various Pacific foods and the eventual compilation of the food composition tables. The composition tables are used by Health and Agricultural Ministries, and the National Nutrition Authority to assess the nutrient intake status in Fiji.

My research deals with the validation of the Microbiological assay method for the analysis of total folate content in foods and setting up of the procedure at the Analytical Unit of the Institute of Applied Science. This will enable the Institute of Applied Science to include the analysis of total folates to its food tests. This project also includes the analysis of some Fijian foods for its total folate content, adding to the food composition tables compiled so far by the IAS. This should lead to the eventual determination of the folate content in the majority of Pacific foods.