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folic acid vs folate  RSS feed

 
Mick Fisch
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We may have been the victims of another well meaning attempt by the government to help us.

Studies for decades have shown that folate is an important nutrient for proper developement of a baby, especially early in the pregnancy.  Since a high percentage of pregnancies are unplanned, women of child bearing age should make sure they get lots of folate.  Folate isn't hard to get.  There's a lot of it in leafy greens.  The problem is that most people don't get enough greens in the modern diet.  Enter the Government.  Studies had previously found that people's bodies could make folate from folic acid.  Folate was more expensive to add to foods than folic acid so the government decreed that folic acid would be added to all wheat flour.

According to the internet, currently there are 53 countries requiring Folic Acid to be added to wheat flour.  The U.S. started requiring it in 1996.  My wife and a few of my daughters have all kinds of dietary allergies (gluten being a major one) and lots of gut related issues.  My daughter recently contacted us and told us that her docter had run a DNA test on her.  The Dr said the test showed that she had inherited a gene that kept her from processing folic acid properly.  She needed to review her diet because it was likely that folic acid is a major part of her problem.  My daughter quickly discovered that her prenatal vitamins were giving her lots of folic acid.  It seems that what is only now coming to light is that a sizable minority of people (my daughter's dr told her it's up in the air, but it seems to be somewhere between 20 and 50% of the population) can't process Folic Acid, the rest process it, but very slowly.  The results of the slow, improper processing can cause all kinds of problems .  It's a pretty recent discovery, so the jury is still out on everything it can cause, but so far allergies, cancer and heart problems are linked.  The gene is inherited.  No one else in the family has been tested, but my wifes sibling's and their descendants have lots of dietary issues now while mine don't, so we figure we know where the gene came from.

Until my daughter started working in town, (around 2003) she ate what we made at home, which wouldn't have included much store bought flour (mostly home ground wheat products, rice, potatoes, beans and wild meat and veggies).  She had no health problems.  Within about six months of starting to work in town, she has developed food allergy after food allergy.  She had to go gluten free several years ago, but it didn't stop her problems.  Being a young married and wanting kids, she has been taking prenatal vitamins for a long time.  Since she switched to non folic acid vitamins most of her problems have gone away.

As I think back, I don't think I heard much about gluten intolerance prior to sometime around 2000.  Most of the european descended population of the U.S. has been eating wheat for at least 2-300 years with gluten problems only in a very small minority.  In the last few decades, the percentage has gone way up.  The genetics don't change that quick.  Folic acid is a prime candidate.  (yeah, I know, being gluten intolerant has become kind of trendy, but I know personally lots of people, mostly on my wifes side of the family that would love to eat wheat but can't, unheard of in that family a few decades ago).

I think the lesson here is that we need to keep our food basic.  The ingredient list shouldn't have many chemical names.  Foods that people, especially folks from your ancestral part of the world, are probably best suited to your system, (within reason, I'm of northern/western european extraction, but I'm not giving up potatos, rice or corn, my family has been eating those for generations).
 
James Freyr
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I'm curious about the money trail and who manufactures/sources the folic acid to "fortify" the wheat flour. This might sound terrible to some folks, but I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts it wasn't done to improve the health of a developing baby but was done to reap massive profits under the guise of improving the health of a developing baby. At the end of the day, the gov't and the food industry only care about money.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Mick Fisch wrote:As I think back, I don't think I heard much about gluten intolerance prior to sometime around 2000.  Most of the european descended population of the U.S. has been eating wheat for at least 2-300 years with gluten problems only in a very small minority.  In the last few decades, the percentage has gone way up.  The genetics don't change that quick.  Folic acid is a prime candidate.  (yeah, I know, being gluten intolerant has become kind of trendy, but I know personally lots of people, mostly on my wifes side of the family that would love to eat wheat but can't, unheard of in that family a few decades ago).


I don't say this to dispute your thoughts or conclusions, but I would caution against this line of thinking.  An "increase" in a condition isn't necessarily the result of more people having it.  It could also result from an increase of awareness.  In the case of gluten sensitivity, that condition has gotten a lot of press over the past couple years, which could certainly prompt some people to realize that they have had similar symptoms (but maybe never gave it much thought).  Then they get tested, and 'suddenly' they have gluten sensitivity.

A similar thing happened with autism.  There was a time when autism was autism.  Then autism-spectrum disorders started getting lumped in, and there was a sudden "increase" in autism-related diagnoses.  I'm not going to comment on theories about causes (such as vaccines), because they're highly (and hotly) debated, and because I don't know enough about it, but the point is that reported incidence doesn't necessarily correlate with actual incidence (or changes therein).

As to your thoughts on folic acid, I don't doubt that such "fortified" flours/breads are less than ideal.
 
Cody DeBaun
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Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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I believe Wes' word of caution is an important one.


There is definitely evidence that, at the least, continuous folic acid supplementation can result in unconverted and unhealthy folic acid in the body.

That being said, the same negative health effects could be linked to glyphosate or other pesticide usage.

Personally, I think grain intolerance as well as allergy problems are on the rise in part due to the twin evils of increasing sugar consumption and decreasing physical activity. While these things do not directly result in any intolerance to my knowledge, they do lead to chronic mild to severe inflammation.

Another thing to consider is that food labels can't necessarily be trusted. Due to an endless series of loopholes, just about anything can be labelled as something else. For example the sweetener people were recently able to change the name of high fructose corn syrup, since people stopped buying it.  Even then lot of that information is self-reported and on a voluntary basis, and from my understanding is basically never verified.

Mick I think you have the right idea- keep it basic. To which I would add 'and know exactly where your food comes from, and how it gets to you'.
 
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