Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Risk Of Supplementing With Folic Acid

In 1998, the FDA required certain foods to be fortified with folic acid, e.g. flour (breads, pasta, cookies, crackers, cakes), cereals, cornmeal, and rice. A slice of fortified bread might now contain between 50-200 mcg folic acid, breakfast cereals between 100-400 mcg per serving. The RDA is 400 mcg.

Is there anything risky about getting more than 400 mcg? Yes. Folic acid can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency that can lead to nerve damage.

There's also damage to the colon from too much folate:

Altered Folate Availability Modifies The Molecular Environment Of The Human Colorectum: Implications For Colorectal Carcinogenesis, Cancer Prevention Research, April, 2011
"Excessive folate supplementation [1000 mcg] might promote colorectal carcinogenesis by enhancing proinflammatory and immune response pathways."
Cancer Incidence And Mortality After Treatment With Folic Acid And Vitamin B12, JAMA, 2009
"Conclusion: Treatment with folic acid [800 mcg] plus vitamin B12 [400 mcg] was associated with increased cancer outcomes and all-cause mortality in patients with ischemic heart disease in Norway, where there is no folic acid fortification of foods."
A basic multivitamin usually contains at least 400 mcg, but so does a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal. Add some pasta and a piece or two of bread, which are now fortified, and you're well over 800 mcg. Let alone all the other foods that naturally contain folate, like spinach (1/2 cup cooked: 130 mcg), black-eyes peas (1/2 cup: 105 mcg), or beef liver (3 oz: 215 mcg).

Is it any wonder so many people have irritable bowel syndrome? Maybe it's not the wheat or the gluten. Maybe it's what's been added to the wheat. Or maybe it's the vitamin pill. Maybe doctors should stop recommending so many supplements.
Thanks, RB, for getting me started.

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