THE FOLIC ACID FALLACY
Shane Ellison M. Sc.
The People's Chemist
June 1, 2010
How Your Multivitamin Might be Killing You
People pride themselves on popping pills, especially when labeled as “nutritional supplements.” Don’t ask me why. But, just as I’ve reveled in swallowing nine shots of tequila in a dank, Mexican bar, American’s are proud to pop pills. I’m not sure which is worse. But, if I had to bet, I’d say “pill pride,” especially when it comes to nutritional supplements.
When I toss too many back, I know what I’m getting into. My ego goes from being really big to very big in the blink of an eye. This is partly why my book, Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, is so much fun to read (or offensive depending on your point of view). At times, I drank to break up the monotony of writing, and subsequently my ego took pot-shots at the pharmaceutical and supplement industries (essentially, one in the same the same). That’s a predictable outcome, and knowing that is awareness in motion, no matter how stupid the act might be. In contrast, the outcome associated with popping nutritional supplements can be unpredictable. That’s bad, especially when your livelihood depends on it. Folic acid is a perfect example.
Just as counterfeit Rolex watches are sold to intoxicated teenagers on the streets of Mexico, the drug industry pushes counterfeits of Mother Nature to consumers dizzy with marketing spin. This is the best analogy for the “folic acid fallacy.” Folic acid is a cheap counterfeit isolate of the naturally occurring “folate.”
The term folate (not folic acid) encompasses a slew of naturally occurring chemical cousins – chemists call them isomers – that have a wide range of positive roles in the body. Without full-spectrum natural folate, our body becomes a breeding ground for Alzheimer's disease, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, neural tube defects, poor cognitive performance, depression, hearing loss and many types of cancer.
In one of the biggest natural heists in pharmaceutical history, Big Pharma has stolen the real folate from the marketplace and replaced it with their counterfeit: Folic acid. Known to chemists as pteroylglutamic acid monoglutamate, the drug folic acid is one of the best-selling counterfeits infiltrating nutritional supplement products such as multi-vitamins and prenatals. Adding injury to insult, the FDA mandated that grain-based foods such as bread and cereal, be fortified with it in 1996. The only thing missing is a “black box warning,” because the side effects are staggering.
The Unpredictable Outcome of Folic Acid Use
Today, an estimated 274 million people are being exposed to folic acid. Unbeknownst to them, the synthetic compound has proven adverse effects and according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “no long term studies exist to evaluate the risks associated with prolonged use.” Supplement promoters usually hiss and snort when hearing this, insisting that “I’m missing vital studies.” Please. I have piles of research papers bigger than most midget thinkers who push cheap, nutritional supplement propaganda online –Ah, there goes my ego again, and I’m not even drinking.
Prenatal and postnatal supplementation of folic acid in mothers on a standard diet resulted in the occurrence of higher numbers of cancer tumors. The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening trial linked folic acid intake with 20% to 32% increased risk of breast cancer in women consuming more than 400 microg/d supplemental folic acid.
Moms who supplement with folic acid face a drug induced illness known as MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate polymorphism). Kinda like the shuffling of cards, folic acid can shuffle your genetic map leading to altered DNA activity, putting moms at risk for heart disease as well as colonic cancer and acute leukemia later in life. Writing for Nature magazine, scientists warned in 2005 that the use of folic acid in fortification programs worldwide could have, “the side effect of increasing the prevalence of some of the most significant, human life-threatening diseases.”
The Safe Alternative to Folic Acid
The history of folate dates back to 1931 when chemists concluded that anemia was caused by a dietary deficiency of the vitamin, based on their discovery of it in folate rich foods like liver and yeast. Big Pharma – smelling big money in a synthetic version – moved quickly to counterfeit the natural cure. Folic acid was created in a lab in 1941 and today has replaced natural folate consumption, but not without risk.
Fortunately, wiping out illness associated with a folate deficiency is simply a matter of adhering to “nutrient logic” rather than popping unpredictable pills. You can do this by bolstering your diet with foods rich in folate like liver, leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and turnip greens), fruits (such as citrus fruits and juices), eggs, dried beans and peas, and the forgotten master folate supplement, non-fortified brewer’s yeast.
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This, like drinking tequila, has a predictable outcome. But unlike irresponsible tequila consumption (which I don’t condone), it’s an outcome that leads to health and longevity made simple by nature. Admittedly, Big Pharma will have to suffer a pay cut as this nutrient logic becomes a reality and natural folate stages a comeback. Pill trashing will then replace pill popping.
© 2010 Shane Ellison - All Rights Reserve