FOLATE for Heart Health (But NOT Folic Acid)
Update: NEVER take folic acid – the supplement you want look for is FOLATE, not folic acid – even many health practitioners, doctors, and nutritionists do not understand the difference and believe they are one and the same; they are not. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 and entirely safe; folic acid is the synthetic form, and it has a high probability of causing cancer.
Folic acid looked very promising as a supplement for cardiac heath, but I ultimately have had to eliminate it due to its dangers and risks I subsequently learned about. While it is purported to prevent some cancers, the flip side is that it may cause others, and the risk factor is alarmingly high. See further below in the article for those down-sides).
However, with further in-depth research, I discovered that it wasn’t necessary to throw the baby out with the bath water. You can still get the benefits folic acid offers for heart health, by take it in its natural form – FOLATE, and avoiding the synthetic and potentially very dangerous synthetic ‘folic acid’.
The bottom line here is that for heart health, you should be taking FOLATE and NOT folic acid (which is the synthetic form of the natural folate). Many doctors, health practitioners and nutritionists actually do not know the difference and they use the two terms interchangeably, not realizing how vastly different they are – a life and death difference, in fact. No one should in fact be taking folic acid without supervision of doctor very knowledgable about the difference between folate and folic acid. Folic acid does indeed have major heart benefits – but it has also been proven in studies to cause several forms of cancer. You don’t want to trade one serious health condition for another. Folate, the natural form of folic acid, has the same benefits, without the risks.
Folic acid is a B vitamin (Vitamin B9, also referred to as folate) which, according to the American Nutrition Association, supplementing with improves arterial elasticity to lower heart attack risk. Here’s how:
A primary cause for cardiovascular disease leading to coronary artery disease and heart attack deaths is arterial hardening or loss of elasticity in the lining of the arteries supplying blood to the heart. Homocysteine is an amino acid that has been associated with arterial hardening and thickening, and high circulating blood levels can double or triple the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Homocysteine is an independent marker of risk for the development of cardiovascular disease, including ischemic heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (fatty deposits in the peripheral arteries). Homocysteine is an important cardiovascular risk factor. Homocysteine can make blood clot more easily than normal, increasing the risk of both heart attack and death by heart attack. Inadequate levels of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 can lead to increased homocysteine levels.
Studies show that elevated levels of homocysteine may cause endothelial dysfunction of the arteries, an early step in the development of atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of most heart attacks. The endothelium is the inner layer of cells lining the arteries, and maintaining its integrity is crucial to preventing atherosclerosis. Aging, poor health habits, and biochemical stressors such as elevated homocysteine can weaken the endothelial barrier, allowing blood cells and toxic substances to infiltrate and enter the subendothelial compartment. Lipids such as LDL and triglycerides can accumulate in this area and oxidize. In an attempt to repair the area, smooth muscle cells infiltrate the site, causing an atherosclerotic lesion to form. As this process continues, atherosclerosis progresses, and chronic inflammation takes root in the area. As the body attempts to repair the injured site, calcium accumulation, or hardening of the arteries, can also occur.
A brief period of mental stress in healthy young adults with no evidence of vascular disease or risk factors for cardiovascular disease.response can produce endothelial dysfunction.
Some new findings indicate that lowering homocysteine may improve endothelial function and thus dramatically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
Research has shown that B vitamins naturally lower dangerous levels of homocysteine, and folic acid specifically has demonstrated the capacity to reduce thickening of arterial walls in individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Scientists from China have published the result of a study in the prestigious journal Atherosclerosis that shows daily supplementation with folic acid reduces hardening of the arteries to counter the development of atherosclerosis.
Studies in the journal Clinical Nutrition demonstrate that folic acid lowers stroke risk by 12 percent, again by lowering homocysteine levels in the blood and reducing artery wall thickening.
The data shows that folic acid provides potent heart health benefits, and supplementation was associated with less hardening of the arterial walls, especially in those with chronic kidney disease or presently at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The study clearly shows that reducing the deadly homocysteine amino acid reduces risk of both stroke and heart disease in a dose-dependent manner.
The scientists found that daily supplementation with 5 mg of folic acid lowered homocysteine levels by 25 percent, providing a powerful shield against heart disease. The authors concluded “Folic acid supplementation results in significant CIMT (carotid intima-media thickness, a measure of arterial wall thickness) reduction after 18 months in patients with at least one cardiovascular risk.”
According to the Institute of Medicine, eating folate-rich green leafy vegetables, citrus, nuts, seeds, and meat will boost the body’s levels of this B vitamin, but.the body absorbs only about 50% of the folate in food, while absorbing approximately 100% of the folic acid in vitamin supplements.
The thing that puzzles me about this, is that all of the folic acid supplements on the market are in doses no higher than 800 mcg, which is less than 1 mg. So you would need 6 pills a day to reach a dose of 5mg, and this doesn’t quite seem right. Most of the supplement labels suggest a dose of 400 to 800 mcg, so it makes me nervous to exceed the dosage recommended on the bottle by that much without further investigation. My folic acid supplement is 800 mcg – that means I’d need to take 6.25 pills a day to get a dose of 5mg. (5mg- 5000 mcg) (800 mcg = o.8 mg)
And indeed, there does seem to be vague references to high dose folic acid being associated with risky side effects, though I could not find specific information. In fact, read the end of this article for comments on a leading expert of Folic Acid, supporting the safety of high dose folic acid supplementation.
Meanwhile, the Life Extension website states: “Folic acid was long ago demonstrated to exert a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, some forms of cancer, and various neurological impairments…. Scientists are now looking at what dose of folic acid might produce optimal effects. Findings from new studies are quite surprising. It turns out that some people may benefit from folic acid doses far exceeding what is found in today’s dietary supplements.”
Nutrition experts recommend taking a full-spectrum vitamin B supplement (providing a minimum of 500 mcg folic acid and 300 mcg B12) along with trimethylglycine (500 to 1,000 mg per day) to lower elevated homocysteine levels and dramatically lower stroke and vascular disease risks.
In addition, folic acid plays a significant role in the health of red blood cells, helps support a healthy nervous system, may reverse depression, may help prevent dementia and other neuropsychiatric disorders, appears to reduce the risk of some cancers, such as colon, cervical, and breast cancer.
Data suggest that low levels of folic acid may result in increased rates of cervical and colorectal cancer. In the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 121,000 nurses aged 30 to 55 during an 18-year period from 1976 to 1994, Harvard researchers concluded that women with a high folic acid intake were 75% less likely to develop colon cancer than those with a lower intake.39 Other studies have reported strong links between low levels of folic acid and cancers of the breast, lung, esophagus, and stomach.
According to the American Heart Association website, Folic Acid in fact, can cure a heart attack if delivered in high doses within minutes of cardiac arrest (intravenously).
Convinced that folate was crucial in preventing neural tube defects, the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 mandated that manufacturers fortify all cereal grains with folic acid, specifically with a concentration of 140 mcg of folic acid per 100 grams of cereal grain products. This amount provides the average woman with an extra 100 mcg per day of folic acid. While neural tube defects in the US declined significantly after these products were fortified with folic acid, a statistical decline in stroke and ischemic heart disease deaths was also recorded, according to data presented in March 2004 by the American Heart Association.
Around 2001, Australian researchers speculated that if low-dose folic acid (200 mcg daily) has some therapeutic influence, then higher doses might be even more effective. Investigators from the Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney followed the rationale that lowering homocysteine with folic acid may in turn help reduce the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease. A trial involving 723 subjects with a history of unstable angina or myocardial infarction, daily doses of both 200 mcg and 2000 mcg of folic acid reduced homocysteine, but the outcome of the higher dose was about one third greater than the lower dose.
Wales Heart Research Institute in London found that high-dose folic acid (5000 mcg daily) lowered plasma homocysteine by 25% in clinical trials, while improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is the primary mediator of endothelial function, capable of dilating blood vessels and inhibiting platelet aggregation. (L-Arginine is also excellent for improving nitric oxide levels).
It is common sense that quitting smoking, avoiding saturated and trans fats, and exercising regularly may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. For many people, however, these lifestyle changes are not easily attainable. Scientists thus search for any approach that might prevent early endothelial dysfunction and subsequent cardiovascular disease before too much damage occurs.
With this in mind, a team of investigators in Ireland used high-dose folic acid (5000 mcg daily) for four weeks to determine whether supplementation influenced endothelial function in otherwise healthy young cigarette smokers. While measured homocysteine levels stayed about the same in the smokers in the control group, the researchers reported that folic acid supplementation significantly improved endothelial function in healthy young smokers.
About the same time, re-searchers in the Netherlands examined the effects of folic acid and vitamin B12 in patients with high homocysteine levels and coronary artery disease. Their findings showed that coronary endothelial function improved after just six months of treatment with high-dose folic acid (5000 mcg daily) and vitamin B12 (400 mcg daily).
Is Folic Acid Supplementation Safe?
This raises an obvious question: is supplementing with high-dose folic acid (5000 mcg daily) safe? In aninterview with Life Extension, Malcolm J. Lewis, MD, professor of cardiovascular pharmacology and deputy head of the Department of Pharmacology, Therapeutics and Toxicology at Cardiff University, discussed the results of the most recent folic acid trials. Dr. Lewis leads one of the world’s premier team of scientists in investigating the role of this B vitamin and its relationship to cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Lewis confirmed the safety and effectiveness of high-dose folic acid, saying that findings reported at the May 2004 meeting of the British Cardiac Society “clearly demonstrated that although both 400 mcg and [5000 mcg] of folic acid can lower homocysteine levels to the same extent in patients with coronary disease, only the [5000- mcg daily dose] was effective at improving endothelial function (an excellent surrogate for cardiovascular health). None of the subjects in any of our studies has had adverse effects from taking [5000 mcg] of folic acid. Provided vitamin B12 deficiency has been excluded, this dose would seem safe to use.”18
Dr. Lewis added, “It is obvious, therefore, that ‘high’ doses of folate have pharmacological effects which are different from more conventionally used ‘low’ doses. We are currently investigating why this may be the case.”18
HOWEVER, I also found this: “Folic acid supplementation is dangerous for everyone, but especially pregnant women. Women who take supplemental folic acid increase their breast cancer risk by 20-30%, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dangers of Folic Acid – Dr. Fuhrman
Now, Dr Fuhrman does peddle his own line of nutritional supplements, so I always have to be a bit wary of the claims made by someone selling something, as opposed to, for instance, the expert cited above. However, he does cite studies and sources:
“Women who take supplemental folic acid increase their breast cancer risk by 20-30%, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers collected data on women’s folic acid intake from multivitamins over a 10-year period – they found that the women who took multivitamins containing folic acid were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those that did not. 1,2
A study published earlier this year found a 163% increased risk of prostate cancer in men taking folic acid supplements.3
A new meta-analysis of folic acid supplementation and colorectal cancer risk found that those who took folic acid for more than three years increased their risk of having a colorectal adenoma by 35%.4 In the U.S., Canada, and most recently Chile, colorectal cancer rates have climbed since the advent of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.10-11
Another new study, has found that folic acid supplementation by pregnant women increases the risk of childhood asthma by 26% 5, and yet another study linked folic acid supplementation during pregnancy to increased incidence of respiratory tract infections in infants, especially those resulting in hospitalization.6
This past month in Norway, where there is no fortification of flour with folic acid, researchers conducting a six-year study on the homocysteine-lowering effects of B vitamins in patients with heart disease made an unexpected finding: the patients whose supplement included folic acid had a greater risk of cancer incidence and cancer mortality.7 These patients were 43% more likely to die from cancer.
Most alarming was another study that compared women who took folic acid during their pregnancy to those that did not. Thirty years later those women who were given a hefty dose of folic acid during pregnancy were twice as likely to die from breast cancer”.
So what on earth does one make of all of this?
I turned to the University of California at Berkley and let it be the deciding factor until more info is known. In their article Folate: Nutritional Chameleon? in the Berkley Wellness magazine they state:
“This vitamin has been linked to heart health and cancer prevention. Since folate is vital for healthy cell growth, it’s theorized that the vitamin may help prevent the abnormal cell growth characteristic of cancer. But there are equally plausible theories as to how folate may increase cancer risk, and lately some studies have linked folic acid to a higher risk of some cancers.
Recent research suggests that folic acid may be a nutritional chameleon—protective in some circumstances, dangerous in others.
Cardiovascular disease. B vitamins, especially folate, help lower blood levels of homocysteine. Studies have found that people with high levels of this amino acid are more likely to have heart disease, strokes and cognitive decline. But in recent years research has found that lowering homocysteine via vitamin supplements, including folic acid, does not reduce the likelihood of heart disease, and two studies found increased risk.
A 2009 review from the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that there’s no evidence to support the use of B vitamins as a preventive for heart disease. And in 2010, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a well-designed British study looked at 6,000 heart attack survivors who took folic acid and vitamin B12 for almost seven years. Though their homocysteine levels dropped, they were no less likely to have another heart attack or a stroke than their counterparts who took a placebo.
A 2011 Dutch clinical trial whose results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that folic acid supplements (800 micrograms a day) taken for three years did not slow atherosclerotic progression or arterial stiffening, which are markers for cardiovascular risk.
Brain health. Studies on the effects of taking folic acid and/or lowering homocysteine on brain health have yielded contradictory findings. A 2010 English study published in the online journal PLOS ONE found that people with mild cognitive impairment who took large doses of B12, B6 and folic acid had much less brain shrinkage over a two-year period, suggesting a reduced risk of dementia. A study in Stroke in 2013, however, found that high doses of these B vitamins taken for three years had no effect on cognitive decline in people who had previously had a stroke or TIA.
Colon cancer. Many studies have linked a high folate intake from food or supplements with a reduced risk of colon cancer. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables go along with a lower risk of colon cancer, and the folate in these foods may be one reason for this. But some research has found no relationship. In addition, a widely publicized study from 2007 found that people prone to precancerous colon polyps (adenomas) who were given a high dose of folic acid—1,000 micrograms a day—for three years had more new or advanced polyps than those taking a placebo.
A study from Harvard researchers in 2009, however, found that this same high dose neither prevented nor promoted the growth of adenomas in people prone to them. In fact, people with initially low blood levels of folate seemed to benefit. The large British study mentioned earlier, which focused on cardiovascular disease, also found that folic acid supplements (2,000 micrograms a day) had no effect on cancer risk.
In 2011, a large observational study in the journal Gastroenterology linked both folate and folic acid to a reduced risk of colon cancer, though relatively few men took doses of 1,000 micrograms or more. And a meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Cancer combined data from the three largest clinical trials of folic acid supplementation for the prevention of colorectal adenomas. It found that after up to 3.5 years of folic acid use, “there is no clear decrease or increase in the occurrence of new adenomas in patients with a history of adenoma.”
A 2012 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that B vitamins do not affect the risk of colorectal adenomas. It compared high doses of folic acid, B12 and B6 to a placebo in 5,400 women at high cardiovascular risk and found no effect on adenoma risk. And in 2013, an analysis of 13 clinical trials, published in the Lancet, concluded that folic acid supplements, even in high doses, do not increase or decrease the risk of cancer, including colon cancer.
Breast cancer. A few recent studies have suggested that a high intake of folate may reduce the risk of breast cancer. But the benefit was found only in certain groups of postmenopausal women, such as those with very low folate intakes to begin with, or heavy drinkers (alcohol interferes with folate in the body and also increases the risk of breast cancer). And other studies have found no benefit, while two have suggested increased risk.
Prostate cancer. Again, studies have produced mixed results, with some showing an increased risk with high intakes. Notably, a large 10-year study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2009 found that the risk of prostate cancer more than doubled in men taking folic acid supplements (1,000 micrograms a day). But folate from food seemed to reduce the risk slightly.
Lung cancer. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, a Norwegian study of people with heart disease (many of whom were smokers) found that those taking 800 micrograms of folic acid daily, plus vitamin B12, had a higher rate of cancer, especially lung cancer, than those taking a placebo.
Cancer conundrum. Timing may be crucial. Healthy people who increase their folate or folic acid intake may reduce their risk, but in those who already have precancerous growths or cancer, large amounts of folic acid may fuel the progression. The dose may also be the key: Animal studies have shown that inadequate intakes may increase cancer risk, but that high intakes may also do so. This suggests that people who are deficient in folate may get some protection by boosting their intakes, while those who already have enough in their body and take high doses may actually be harmed. No one knows what the optimal folate intake is to reduce the risk of cancer.
Autism. To prevent neural tube birth defects, women who may become pregnant have long been advised to consume folic acid. However, women who take folic acid supplements before and after becoming pregnant have a reduced risk of having a child with autism, according to a large observational study from Norway in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2013. The researchers found that women who took the supplements (any dose) during the crucial window from four weeks before to eight weeks after conception were 40 percent less likely to have children with autism than nontakers. A study of women in California, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012, also suggested a reduction in autism risk from folic acid. These findings need to be confirmed by further research.
Bottom line: Women of childbearing age should take a supplement providing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid (the amount in most multivitamins) a day, and if they become pregnant, 600 to 800 micrograms (the amount in prenatal vitamins) a day. If you have chronic or recurrent depression, talk with your doctor about having your folate level measured.
To be on the safe side, men and postmenopausal women should limit their intake of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods to not much more than the Daily Value—especially if they have had colon cancer or polyps. Read the labels on foods, beverages and supplements. A multivitamin supplies 400 micrograms; one small serving of a highly fortified cereal (such as Total, Special K or Product 19) adds another 400; a B-complex pill, 400 more; enriched grain products, perhaps another 200; and vitamin-spiked bottled waters, energy drinks and sports bars add more. Thus it’s easy to consume more than 1,000 micrograms a day, the amount found to increase cancer risk in some studies.”
Originally published September 2009. Updated December 2013.
My Bottom Line
Well, I think I’ll leave it at that then – no high dose folic acid for me. Darn! Just when I thought I’d found a wonder supplement for my fluttery heart. It looked so promising, but a chameleon indeed. But read on, because the same benefits come from FOLATE, the natural source of B9 (folic acid is the synthetic form).
Wait… There’s a “But”…..
- Just when I thought I had this all figured out…. I came across some very interesting information by The Tahoma Clinic Blog (this was substantiated also by another source, as well by the respected publication Natural News ) which may potentially shed some further light on this so called chameleon….
- As reported in Natural News, Dr. Robert Thiel, Ph.D., a prominent naturopath and scientist, has been studying the effects of both folic acid and folate on the human body for many years. Throughout his extensive research, he’s learned that the human body simply cannot process folic acid very well, because it’s not the same thing as folate. And consuming too much folic acid, even at government-recommended amounts, can actually kill you. Unlike natural folate, folic acid is completely synthetic.
- The The Tahoma Clinic Blog article explains:
- “Not only journalists, but even medical professionals still haven’t figured out that folic acid is not the same as the naturally occurring vitamin folate.A university-affiliated medical doctor stated: “We’ve known for years that getting too little folate can promote cancer. Now it looks like getting too much folic acid could be harmful too.”Like much of the medical mainstream, he used folic acid and folate as interchangeable terms.But folic acid is not the same as folate!Folic acid is a single type of molecule, crystallized in 1943 by a scientist working for the patent medicine company Lederle Laboratories, then a subsidiary of American Cyanamid Corporation. Folic acid is the fully oxidized form of naturally occurring folates, which are found in leafy and green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, romaine, lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy. Other sources include corn, beets, tomatoes, dried or fresh beans and peas, fortified sunflower seeds and some fruits, including oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, banana, raspberries, and strawberries. Liver (only organic, of course) and brewer’s and baker’s yeasts are good sources of folate, too.But—and this is important to understanding the difference between folic acid and the various naturally occuring folates—none of these vegetables, fruits, liver or yeast naturally contain even one molecule of folic acid.
- How the mainstream convinced us we need folic acid, and not folate
- So why is folic acid so firmly entrenched in the public and mainstream professional mind as a vitamin? For the same reasons that mainstream professionals, science writers (who should know better), and the majority of the public think that horse estrogen and human estrogen are the same thing. It’s a combination of a sloppy understanding of biochemistry and some clever patent-medicine-company-supported and -promoted psychology.First, the biochemistry. (Stay with me, it’s relatively easy.) Folate was originally isolated from brewer’s yeast and spinach in the 1930s. Once isolated and exposed to air it becomes unstable and breaks down, and is generally no longer useful in nutrition. But a small amount of natural folate can be transformed by oxidation (a natural process) into folic acid, a much more stable form with a very long shelf life.While human and animal cells cannot use the folic acid molecule itself in their normal metabolic processes, human cells (principally the liver) can transform folic acid back into many of its metabolically useful folate forms. That’s why folic acid—despite not being found in food—can do so much nutritional good, the best-known example being the prevention of birth defects including spina bifida, cleft lip, and cleft palate.As we grow older, though, our bodies are increasingly slow at transforming folic acid into usefully metabolized folates. That’s probably why scientists are finding that folic acid (not folate) is associated with cognitive decline in the elderly. Some of these studies have shown significantly elevated levels of un-metabolized (and therefore not useful) folic acid building up in the bloodstreams of supplemented older individuals.Now, the psychology. Imagine you’re the sales and marketing arm of a patent medicine company. Which would you rather produce and sell: A then-process-patentable substance (folic acid) or an un-patentable substance (folate)? A substance with a longer shelf life (folic acid), or a substance that breaks down very rapidly on exposure to heat, cold, or light—even from “just sitting there” (folate)? A substance that’s less expensive to manufacture and process (folic acid), or a more expensive substance (folate)? The answer is pretty obvious—from a marketing point of view, folic acid wins every time.And in this case, by great good luck, folic acid does do some good. It can be re-metabolized into various metabolically useful forms in most people—particularly younger people. So of course folic acid is promoted as a vitamin—even though it’s not found naturally in food—and manufacturers happily encourage everyone to speak of it interchangeably with folate, just as the Wyeth company so successfully confused Premarin with human estrogen in the public mind.As usual, the mainstream way does more harm than the natural way So since the 1940s, when physicians wanted to give their patients supplemental folate, they were taught to start with folic acid under one or another brand name. Even I was taught that at the University of Michigan in the 1960s. Supplement companies have sold folic acid, too, as it appeared to do the job, and there were for years no reports of harm. In fact there was very little, if any, research into potential harm.
But now that there is enough evidence of potential harm from folic acid, it’s time for all of us who want the benefits to switch back to the forms of folate found in food, which our bodies can use more efficiently and effectively than folic acid. Of course, we should always start by eating as much folate-containing food as possible, and as fresh as possible, too.
Remember, naturally occurring folates break down quite rapidly with heat, cold, light, even when they’re still in the food. Because of this naturally rapid breakdown, even the most avid vegetable and fruit eaters often need folate supplementation. (For a simple way to find out if you’re among them, see “Overlooked blood test could be the key to your good health” below.) Fortunately, about a year or two ago, responsible supplement suppliers began to make individual folate (not folic acid) supplements available. Some suppliers have just started to include various forms of folate in multiple vitamins and other combinations.
So it’s time to make folic acid supplements a part of history, and use only forms of naturally occurring FOLATE when we use supplements. A little bit of folic acid (100 to 200 micrograms, the amount found in many multiple vitamins at present) is not likely to be a problem, but more taken daily for years just might raise your long-term risk of colorectal cancer or cognitive decline. If higher amounts are unavoidable (for example, until all prenatal vitamins switch from folic acid to folate), taking additional folate will very likely offset the folic acid still found in the multiple. If you’re apprehensive, consult a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine.
It’s very likely that within a relatively short time enough responsible supplement suppliers will switch from folic acid to folate in all their supplements, individual and combination, so you won’t need to read all the labels so closely to make sure you’re getting folate and not folic acid.
One last point you may be wondering about: Is there such a thing as “too much of a good thing” when it comes to naturally occurring folate supplementation?
Unless you have vitamin B12 deficiency or cancer, it’s very unlikely to be a problem. In the case of vitamin B12 deficiency, supplemented folate—even naturally occurring folate—can “cover up” some of the deficiency signs in blood tests. But preventing that is simple: Take extra vitamin B12 whenever you take extra folate! Some suppliers even combine the two, or put them with the rest of the B-complex vitamins.
But if you have cancer, it’s of course best to discuss folate (not folic acid) supplementation with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine. To find one in your area, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine. JVW
Where to get it: Naturally occurring folate in supplements
At present, two types of folates that occur naturally in foods are available as over-the-counter supplements. One is folinic acid, usually sold over-the-counter as “calcium folinate.” Calcium folinate is also available by prescription as Leucovorin®, which, unfortunately, is considerably more expensive and also contains FD&C yellow #10 and FD&C blue # 1, neither of which improves clinical results.
- Make sure to check your multivitamin, because most multis contain folic acid and not folate.
- The other over-the-counter naturally occurring folate presently available is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (“5-MTHF”). It’s more expensive than over-the-counter calcium folinate, but more likely to be effective for individuals with “hidden” genetic defects in folate metabolism. It is sometimes marketed under the name “Metfolin”.There’s also at least one B-complex and one multiple vitamin-mineral combination containing calcium folinate and methylcobalamin (the more metabolically active form of B12) available over-the-counter. By the time this newsletter is printed, it’s very likely more than one of each of these will be available, too.
- Avoid products that say “folic acid” on the label. Make sure to check your multivitamin, because most multis contain folic acid and not folate.
- A basic nutrient for cancer and heart disease protectionFolate (along with vitamin B12 and zinc) are all critical to normal cell division and DNA repair, which means they’re all essential tools for cancer prevention. Adequate folate lowers the risk of a variety of cancers, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, but also breast, pancreatic, cervix, and lung.It’s almost certain further research will add other cancers to this list. However, for those who already have cancer in any form, it’s not yet clear whether or not supplemental folate may accelerate cancer growth as fully oxidized folic acid has been found to do in some studies.
Along with vitamins B6 and B12, folate helps keep levels of the natural human metabolite homocysteine low in our bodies. Considerable research shows that increasingly higher homocysteine levels are associated with increasingly higher levels of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.
It’s true that in 2008, researchers reported that supplemental folic acid (not folate), B12, and B6 were effective at lowering homocysteine but were ineffective in reducing “major cardiovascular events” and deaths, but (once again) it’s very likely that this study used folic acid—which isn’t as easily metabolized in older individuals (rather than methylfolate)— along with less-than-optimally active forms of vitamin B12 and B6.
So, despite this (likely flawed) study, if your homocysteine levels are high, I still recommend eating more folate-containing vegetables, and, if necessary, taking enough supplemental methylfolate, methylcobalamin, and pyridoxal phosphate to keep your level low. If you do, your risk of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis will likely be lower, too.
Research indicates that other benefits of supplemental folate may include reduction of stroke risk and macular degeneration, and improvement in depression, as well as improvement in memory and mental agility in older individuals.
When enough is enough
Is there any danger of “overdose” with folate? Except when cancer is already present, it’s not very likely.”
- And the Natural News article had this to say:
“Synthetic folic acid feeds the growth of cancer cells, studies show
Furthermore, science has unveiled that excessive consumption of folic acid directly interferes with folate metabolism, effectively damaging the nervous system. People who take folic acid in accordance with government guidelines (and unwittingly through a laced food supply) are also significantly more prone to developing cancer.
Health authorities in Chile reported several years back that hospitalization rates for colon cancer among men and women age 45 years and older more than doubled after the country instituted food fortification measures in 2000. Similar increases in colon cancer were also observed in the U.S. immediately following fortification guidelines that came to be in the late 1990s.
“The more we learn about folic acid, the more it’s clear that giving it to everyone has very real risks,” said Dr. David Smith, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford in England and folic acid researcher. “Unlike folate, folic acid isn’t found in nature, so we don’t know the effect of the excess.”
Just like artificial water fluoridation, synthetic folic acid is a toxic impostor of the real thing
You can think of folic acid as the food supply equivalent of synthetic fluoride. Just like how many municipal water supplies throughout the U.S. are quietly laced with toxic fluoride (which amounts to mass medication), the food supply is also laced (even more quietly) with toxic folic acid, and most people aren’t even aware of it.
Both substances are synthetic impostors of the real thing — hexafluorosilicic acid and the various other fluoride chemicals added to public water supplies are synthetic imitations of natural fluorine, or calcium fluoride, which is a true mineral. Likewise, folic acid is a synthetic impostor of natural folate, a real nutrient found naturally in food.
“We all need the natural folate found in leafy greens, orange juice, and other foods, and diets high in these foods are perfectly healthy,” wrote health and science journalist Laura Beil. “Many researchers, though, believe that folic acid may be both friend and foe. When cells in the body are healthy, folate helps shepherd along the normal replication of DNA.”
“But when cells are malignant or in danger of becoming so — and as many as half of adults older than 60 could already have precancerous colon polyps, while most middle-aged men have precancerous cells in their prostates — animal studies suggest excess folate in the form of folic acid may act like gas on the fire.”
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/049304_folic_acid_folate_vitamin_B.html#ixzz3bfP9YnJj
Well, now that was all rather insightful. Really cleared up a lot of questions. But I would have loved to have seen a folate dosage recommended.
Some new studies speculate that folic acid’s ability to reverse endothelial dysfunction is independent of its ability to lower plasma homocysteine levels. Lewis and his team recently reported that reversing endothelial dysfunction with folic acid shows that this B vitamin has myriad effects on the vasculature besides lowering homocysteine. In-vitro evidence demonstrates that 5-methytetrahydrofolate, the main circulating metabolite of folic acid, can increase nitric oxide production and directly scavenge superoxide radicals. These properties may account for some of its cardioprotective effects.19
Heart disease was once believed to be a man’s disease. Before the age of 60, men die of heart attack at six times the rate that women do. By the age of 70, however, heart attack rates for men and women are virtually even. Doctors now confirm that heart disease is so deadly for women that they have a 50% chance of dying from it. And the younger a woman is, the less likely she is to have symptoms of heart disease.35
After menopause, which signifies the end of a woman’s reproductive years, many women gain weight. As levels of the hormone estrogen decline, blood pressure increases. Studies show that many postmenopausal women have higher levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) than premenopausal women.36 Realizing the impact of menopause and declining estrogen on women’s heart health, researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome, Italy, sought to determine whether folic acid supplementation affected endothelial function in 15 healthy postmenopausal women.
Published in 2004, this groundbreaking study measured the women’s plasma levels of folate, homocysteine, glucose, insulin, and lipids, as well as their blood pressure. After just one month of supplementation with high-dose folic acid (7500 mcg daily), the women’s endothelial function improved 37% compared to pre-supplementation values. Among the other cardiovascular risk factors studied, beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels increased 6%, while dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) dropped 9%. These findings further substantiate that high-dose folic acid supplementation may improve endothelial function and lipid profile to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
The Alzheimer’s Connection
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 reported that people with high blood levels of homocysteine (greater than 14 µmol/L) have twice the normal risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.32 Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells and the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the chemical messenger responsible for memory and other cognitive skills. High homocysteine levels have also been associated with impairment in verbal memory, fine motor skills, and cognition,33 as well as with stroke.34
Low folate levels are associated with increased levels of homocysteine. With research still in the early stages, scientists theorize that high homocysteine levels may cause brain injury and neuropsychiatric disorders. Increased intake of folic acid and other B vitamins may help to prevent cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease in people with elevated homocysteine levels.
High-dose folic acid—up to 5000 mcg daily—is a scientifically substantiated and safe nutritional approach to achieving optimal health in men and women who want to prevent or reverse chronic illness. With demonstrated benefits in reducing cardiovascular risk factors, preventing and enhancing treatment outcomes in depression, and preventing cancer, folic acid is highly indicated as a therapeutic ally for men and women of all ages. The US recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 400 mcg of folic acid, established by the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, is the minimal amount necessary to prevent gross deficiency syndromes. This nominal level is not at all adequate for preventing chronic disease.
Much remains unknown about chronic and degenerative ailments such as cardiovascular disease and neuropsychiatric disorders. Ground-breaking findings continue to be published. Only in the past decade have scientists begun to unravel how nutrients help the human body prevent, manage, and treat disease. Inexpensive and readily available to most people, high-dose folic acid has the potential to positively influence our health.
Folate provides the following health benefits:
- Helps promote healthy DNA function175
- Maintains already normal homocysteine levels, which is important for heart health176-179
- Promotes healthier skin180,181
- Helps maintain a healthy GI tract182,183
- Is part of a healthy immune system184,185
- Maintains healthy endothelial function186
- Improves mild memory loss associated with aging
Comments made in reviews for FOLATE
Increases brain speed and functioning through methylation, also the only type of folate to induce neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that actually shrinks in response to chronic stress.
My gynecologist recommended this for all women going through menopause and thereafter. Very important for antiaging.
This is supposed to increase metobolic rate and speed metabolism. Its early days but I am finding a big change in energy levels
I’ve found I have more energy, sleep better and generally feel good since I’ve been taking them. I orginally took 6 per day but now find 4 is enough. (Source Naturals MegaFolonic)
A retired gynecologist recommends metafolin for healthy aging. I had some close relatives with dementia so this is part of my brain healthy supplements.
Folate reduces birth defects, enhances digestion, helps prevent anemia, elevates serotonin in the brain, prevents heart disease, and is needed for cellular repair. Its lack usually manifests in heart palpitations, persistent fatigue, insomnia, depression, bleeding gums,in being forgetful, being lightheaded, being irritable, have trouble concentrating, in loss of appetite, and loss of weight. However it lowers zinc, so it must be taken as well.”
(Vitamin C is referred to as a powerful antioxidant on the American Heart Association website).
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