The Dangers of Folic Acid Supplementation

I just got back from the Weston A Price Foundation’s annual conference. My third time attending the conference, I found it inspiring and informative as always. The best part, honestly, is the food. Many meals are included in the conference fee, and they are tasty and nutritious. There’s always slow-cooked meats, fermented vegetables, traditional sourdough bread, and lots of healthy fats in the form of butter and ghee. I leave each meal and the conference feeling nourished and satisfied.

One of the speakers I saw was Dr. Stephanie Seneff who talked about folic acid supplementation. She explained that folic acid is the synthetic version of the natural B vitamin folate. Most doctors recommend that pregnant women supplement with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. However, it’s hard for our bodies to convert folic acid into folate. Supplementing with too much folic acid leads to high circulating doses in the blood.

Dr. Seneff got into some complicated chemistry during her presentation. But to keep it simple, folic acid differs from folate in that it is missing 4 hydrogen ions. These missing ions make the folic acid molecule¬†oxidized which reduces nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide transmits signals¬†between cells for communication as well as assists the immune system, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and increases endurance and strength. As you can see, nitric oxide is important and we don’t want to do anything that reduces it.

She showed results from several studies that show that excess folic acid has been linked to low birth weight and autism. Folic acid may also increase cancer risk. Also, having low B12 and high folic acid status leads to anemia and cognitive impairment.

So the risk from folic acid not only comes from supplements, but also from fortified grains in the United States. Since 1996, any enriched breads, cereals, and other processed foods will have added folic acid as well as synthetic iron and some other B vitamins. All of Europe except the UK has refused to enrich their grains with folic acid.

Dr. Seneff also discussed the interaction folic acid has with glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Since most non-organic grains are sprayed with Roundup and then enriched with folic acid, these two chemicals are found together in enriched grains. She theorizes that folic acid and glyphosate together contribute to celiac disease and autism.

Glyphosate harms beneficial gut bacteria which can make folate if we don’t get enough from food. Glyphosate also binds to heavy metals in the soil, damages red blood cells, and causes oxidative damage in the liver.

If you’re eating a whole food diet, it’s easy to avoid folic acid. Avoid breads, cereals, pastas, and any foods made with enriched flour. If you are taking a multivitamin, especially if you are pregnant, make sure to take a whole food vitamin that has folate, not folic acid. Another option if you are taking a B complex is to find one with methylfolate and other methylated B vitamins for easy absorption.

Stay tuned to find out more that I learned at the amazing Weston A Price Foundation conference!

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