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Health warning over folic acid in bread (2007)

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Waverunner, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

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    Does anyone know what they mean with "the liver becomes saturated and unmetabolised folic acid floats around the blood stream"

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-490765/Health-warning-folic-acid-bread.html#ixzz1VxpfGddZ

    Putting folic acid in bread may have harmful consequences for health, researchers warned today.
    The Food Standards Agency has agreed plans that would require folic acid to be added to flour in an attempt to reduce birth defects. A decision on whether to go ahead with the scheme rests with ministers.
    But Institute of Food Research (IFR) scientists found the body might struggle to break down folic acid in the amounts proposed.
    The paper, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found folic acid is broken down by the liver, whereas natural forms of the acid - known as folates - are broken down in the stomach. Folates are found in leafy green vegetables.
    The authors warned that a liver flooded with folic acid will release it into the blood undigested. Excess levels of folic acid in the blood have been linked to bowel and breast cancer.
    The scientists said the full impact of putting folic acid in food could only become apparent in 20 years' time.
    Dr Sian Astley from the IFR said: "Fortifying UK flour with folic acid would reduce the incidence of neural tube defects.
    "However, with doses of half the amount being proposed for fortification in the UK, the liver becomes saturated and unmetabolised folic acid floats around the blood stream.

    "This can cause problems for people being treated for leukaemia and arthritis, women being treated for ectopic pregnancies, men with a family history of bowel cancer, people with blocked arteries being treated with a stent and elderly people with poor vitamin B status."
    She said it also increased the likelihood of multiple births for women undergoing IVF treatment.
    The FSA found fortifying bread with folic acid is the best way of reducing cases of birth defects such as spina bifida.
    Adding folic acid means fewer mothers will have vitamin B deficiencies during pregnancy, the agency said in May. Between 700 and 900 pregnancies every year in the UK are affected by neural tube defects.
    A spokeswoman for the agency said its expert board found there was not enough research on problems with folic acid to assess the potential risk.
    She said: "To reduce any potential risks of consuming high levels of folic acid, the recommendation to introduce mandatory fortification was made with the condition that there are controls on voluntary fortification and clear guidance on the appropriate use of supplements containing folic acid."
  2. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, Waverunner.

    They mean just that. When the rate of intake of folic acid exceeds the capacity of the DHFR enzyme in the liver to chemically reduce it to tetrahydrofolate, the excess folic acid passes on into the general blood circulation. If a person did not take in any more folic acid, the residual folic acid would eventually be metabolized after some hours, but if a person eats another meal with a grain product, such as bread, that has been fortified with folic acid, before this occurs, and continues to do this, then there will be folic acid in the blood stream on a continuous basis. People differ by a factor of 5 (500%) in the rate of this reaction, so some people will have much higher folic acid levels in their blood than others, on the same diet.

    It was a compromise to add folic acid to grain products. Not all countries have done it. It has lowered the incidence of neural tube birth defects in the U.S., but not as much as was hoped. We can be thankful that many babies have been spared these disabling birth defects, but there are some lingering questions about the effects on the general population of adding folic acid to grain products.

    Best regards,

    Rich
  3. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    I read a couple of interesting things about this a year or two ago...I'm not sure how much truth there is in them but this is what I remember, and I'd be interested in more knowledgeable thoughts on these points...

    First, that it would make current tests to detect B6/9/12 deficiencies invalid, because the folic acid from the bread would make the deficiencies in B6/9/12 production invisible. This was in relation to other conditions I believe (not ME), but at the time I found this quite concerning, because the test that would become invalid was (at the time) the only recognised test that had found any abnormal results in me - the B12 level was extremely low for me.

    Second, that the number of neural tube defect births that now occur and could be prevented by this supplementation in bread is very low indeed now - in the UK I think it's single figures, or at most double figures - and all of those cases would be preventable if the mothers took their recommended supplements (some don't), and also supplementation will only prevent a subset of those cases anyways - so although the consequences of neural tube defects are very grave indeed, it seems fairly extraordinary to quietly give the entire population a mandatory dose of folic acid in order to reduce this small number of neural tube defects, especially when the potentially harmful effects on the majority are not known!

    The supplementation, as I understand it, is in all flour - so there is now added folic acid in a huge proportion of food products in the UK - everything which contains flour, which as anybody with wheat/gluten intolerance knows, is basically most food products. And of course the vast majority of the population is unaware of this supplementation, so it does seem like another massive experiment with us as the ignorant guinea pigs...and perhaps something that could serve to hide the evidence of the very types of illnesses we suffer from.

    The whole B6/9/12 story is so strange.
  4. JPV

    JPV Senior Member

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    I'm willing to bet that a large number, if not all, of the instances of "gluten intolerance" is misdiagnosed and is actually a problem with metabolizing synthetic folic acids.
  5. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

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    Thanks for the answers. Really scary.
  6. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    Hi Mark,

    According to the info I can find folic acid is not currently added to UK flour/bread, it has been recommended for inclusion in manditory fortification of flour (except wholemeal) but isnt currently being included.

    If you have other information then I would be very interested to see it.
  7. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Thanks Wonko.Last I heard, quite some time ago, that recommendation had been made and appeared to have been accepted, but I haven't heard anything to say it has been enacted; I don't know what the state of play is with this but if you've found it isn't currently being included then I expect that's correct.
    Wonko likes this.
  8. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

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    Can anyone tell me if this is true for metafolin also?
  9. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, Waverunner.

    Metafolin is naturally the form of folate that is highest in the blood stream (if folic acid is not taken). It is the only form that can enter the brain. It is the active form that is needed by the methionine synthase reaction in all the cells. There is no problem with having to convert it before it can be used. I don't know of any reports of toxicity of this form. Of course, there is the general principle of toxicology that anything is toxic at high enough levels, and this includes things like table salt, sugar and even water.

    Best regards,

    Rich
  10. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

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    Hi Rich,

    thanks for your answer. Just to clear it up, since metafolin does not need to be converted the liver shouldn't become saturated from normal doses and it is unlikely that unmetabolized metafolin (does it even exist? probably no) floats around the bloodstream?

    Greets

    Waverunner
  11. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, waverunner.

    Metafolin does not need to be metabolized before it can be used by the methylation cycle. It does float around in the bloodstream (as does the natural 5L-methyl THF, which is the same substance. Some of it is imported into the cells, and that stimulates the methionine synthase reaction.

    5L-methylTHF is one of the things measured on the methylation pathways panel (in the blood plasma) and we do see it rise over time on the methylation treatment.

    Rich
  12. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

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    Hi Rich,

    so does metafolin cause the same problems as folic acid when taken in higher amounts?

    "This can cause problems for people being treated for leukaemia and arthritis, women being treated for ectopic pregnancies, men with a family history of bowel cancer, people with blocked arteries being treated with a stent and elderly people with poor vitamin B status."
    She said it also increased the likelihood of multiple births for women undergoing IVF treatment.

    Greets

    Waverunner
  13. slayadragon

    slayadragon Senior Member

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    twitpic.com/photos/SlayaDragon
    I wonder what it would "feel like" to have this happen.

    Could it be that some of the reactions that PWC's attribute to gluten are actually due to the folic acid supplementation?

    I personally avoid B vitamin complex, multi vitamins and much grain, because intuitively it just feels wrong to me. All of those things have folic acid in them, of course.
  14. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, Waverunner.

    I haven't heard of problems with Metafolin taken in higher amounts, and I wouldn't expect it to cause problems, because it is the form naturally found in the body in highest abundance. The reference range for this form, based on 120 normal, healthy people, runs much higher than the levels I have seen in people with ME/CFS, even after several months of treatment using the simplified protocol. One advantage of using the methylation pathways panel is that you can see what the actual levels are for this as well as several other folate forms, SAMe, SAH, adenosine, and reduced and oxidized glutathione. So you can know whether they are in their normal ranges or not.

    Of course, there is a principle in toxicology that any substance is toxic if taken in high enough dosage. According to Paracelsus, "The poison is in the dosage." This holds true of table salt, sugar, and even water.

    But we are usually on safer ground when supplementing something that is found naturally in the body (orthomolecular) than a foreign substance (xenobiotic) such as a drug.

    Best regards,

    Rich
  15. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, Slaya.

    I don't know. It's an interesting question. If folic acid was not very usable by a person's body because of their inherited form of DHFR, if the person was taking enough of it because of a diet high in grains and/or supplementation with folic acid, and if it blocked the active folates from being absorbed by the gut or being imported into the cells, I suppose it could contribute to developing a partial block of the methylation cycle. There are a lot of "if's" there, but I think it's something to be considered.

    Rich
  16. Waverunner

    Waverunner Senior Member

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    Thanks for clearing this up.

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