Please be aware of the benefits of folate (Vitamin B9) from food, versus the risks of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods.
"Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is found in supplements and added to fortified foods."(1)
The word folate comes from foliage. Folate is found in vegetables and beans, for example.
Some of the folic acid in Supplements and fortified foods, is converted by the intestines into folate. However, some of the folic acid is not converted, and circulates in the blood as folic acid. Folic acid is not naturally present in the blood. Folic acid in the blood stream may be the cause of the health problems.(2)
Lack of folate is associated with neural tube defects in infants. Folic acid supplements do prevent this. However, so does eating lots of vegetables.
Women who took folic acid supplements during pregnancy had twice the chance of dying of breast cancer, 30 years later.(4)
A 10-year study on women taking multivitamins concluded that those who took multivitamins containing folic acid increased their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.(5)
Folic acid supplementation by pregnant women was shown to increase the risk of childhood asthma by 26%.(6)
Folic acid supplementation during pregnancy is associated with increased incidence of respiratory tract infections in infants.(7)
A study of pregnant women in Sweden found an increased incidence of cardiac birth defects in women who reported using folic acid supplements early in pregnancy.(8)
Folate, the natural stuff from food, is correlated with reduced heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and others.(3)
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Best regards, EngineerGuy
(2) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/591111 (requires a free registration)
(4) Charles D et al. Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer. BMJ 2004;329:1375-6
(5) http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/83/4/895 Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ et al. Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):895-904. (6) Huncharek M et al. A meta-analysis of maternal cured meat consumption during pregnancy and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Neuroepidemiology. 2004 Jan-Apr;23(1-2):78-84. Pogoda JM et al. An international case-control study of maternal diet during pregnancy and childhood brain tumor risk: a histology-specific analysis by food group. Ann Epidemiol. 2009 Mar;19(3):148-60.
(7) Sellers TA et al. Dietary folate intake, alcohol, and risk of breast cancer in a prospective study of postmenopausal women. Epidemiology. 2001 Jul;12(4):420-8.
(8) Kim YI. Folic acid fortification and supplementation--good for some but not so good for others. Nutr Rev. 2007 Nov;65(11):504-11.
A recent WebMD review showed a lack of understanding of the issue.(3)
"The IOM [Institute of Medicine> says extremely high-dose folate supplements should be avoided and recommends adult intake of 400 micrograms daily."
The quote shows a lack of appreciation of the distinction: Supplements contain folic acid, not folate. Why recommend any folic acid supplementation at all, when folic acid is so likely to cause health problems, and eating vegetables improve health so dramatically? Both prevent neural tube defects. This is why Dr. Fuhrman's Gentle Care multivitamin does not contain any folic acid. He makes this supplement available, because it is not available elsewhere. Vitamin A and copper are other harmful supplements that are removed from Gentle Care, but present in nearly all other multivitamins. (Most modern supplements do not contain iron today, except for those diagnosed with anemia, or menstruating.)
A recent Prevention magazine article "Is Your Breakfast Giving You Cancer?" April, 2010, also shows a brain dead analysis. The article properly showed that folic acid supplements are suspected of increasing cancer, and other health issues. But they suggested the reader avoid taking too many fortified cereals, etc, included with their multi, to exceed 400mcg folic acid. They said ask your doctor if you should cut out the multi. For those of us who follow Dr. Fuhrman's sage advice, we cut out the processed foods (flour, white rice, etc) so we cut out the folic acid fortified foods. Also, we eat a lots of vegetables, to get the great benefit of folate, the natural stuff, whick reduces cancer, heart disease, prevents neural tube defects, etc. But those words would be too extreme for Prevention magazine. :-)
Very interesting, EG. I'm beyond child bearing years but isn't it recommended by the medical community for woman wishing to become pregnant or who are pregnant take folic acid supplements for a healthier pregnancy? And I work with a lot of younger women and this is exactly what they are doing on the advice of their doctors. Frightening, isn't it?
Yes, which is why I stay away from all supplements except probiotics when antibiotics kill all the good bacteria. Everyone was running out to buy beta carotene pills--bad news, then it was b12, folate and b6 together which turned out to be more bad news, then it was reported that large doses of vitamin c pills caused thickening of the carotid artery. Some researchers have even reported that we should get our vitamins and minerals from food--a novel idea. I had six kids and took 400 units of folic acid a day with each of them as did my daughters when they were pregnant. Thanks, science.
Quite right. Don't forget vitamin A from supplements, is very bad, also. Iron has already been removed from most modern supplements. Only menstruating women should take an iron supplement, unless someone has been diagnosed with anemia. However, it is nearly impossible to find a multivitamin without harmful vitamin A and folic acid. Vitamin E above 400iu has been shown to reduce life span for the elderly. Fuhrman's Gentle Care multi has none of these.
There are uncommon problems that some people may have, that do require these same supplements, however.
The 2 supplements that are highly beneficial are Vitamin D (aim for a blood level of 35 to 55 ng/ml) and fish oil or algae oil (aim for 100mg DHA).
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