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CakeNutrition’s Feature Article Friday

December 2, 2011

STOP TAKING UNNECESARY B VITAMINS!! . . . NO, SERIOUSLY, STOP IT!

*Just to preface, always follow the directions of your primary physician as this is NOT to be considered medical advice, but otherwise . . . STOP IT!!

One day back when I was just a kid, I was playing outside with my siblings as my mom watched over us on the porch. We were at my grandma’s house, which had bushes that grew little red berries on them. Urged by hunger from a hard day of playing tag, I went to pick some when my mother stopped me, warning of their poisonous nature. I am here to return the favor to the community and alert you of a new age “red berry” – folic acid. All too often someone comes into my store, picks up a bottle of high-dose, 1000ug folic acid, and proceeds to the checkout.  As I stifle my massive urge to let out a deep “not this again” groan, I politely ask, “What do you take the extra folic acid for?”

“Uhm . . . not sure . . . I just always have”... same reply… every time.

On a general note, I find it ridiculous, the amount of supplements people force-feed into their bodies without actually understanding what they are taking, but I digress.

Vitamin B-9 aka Folic Acid – What is it and what does it do?

Folic acid is one of the b-vitamins essential to the body. It is involved in many everyday functions including:

*Making new DNA

*Growth and division of your cells

*Production of red blood cells (anemia prevention)

Folic acid is commonly given in high doses to pregnant women by way of prenatal vitamins. This is essential not only because all these functions are dramatically increased during pregnancy, but also because the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) is greatly reduced (>95% reduction!!)

Confused? Don’t worry; I know exactly what you’re thinking

“But Cake, that sounds like a GREAT supplement. Besides, doesn’t your body just get rid of excess b-vitamins?”

Both of those statements are true to a point. Yes, folic acid IS necessary to live. However, with excess intake it becomes an entirely different story. Yes, b-vitamins are water-soluble (your body doesn’t store them like the fat soluble ones), but that does NOT mean that excess is not harmful. In fact EVERY water soluble vitamin has an Upper Limit (UL) set by the FDA. Daily intake above the UL is considered toxic and can have very serious side effects. By the way, the UL for adults is 1000ug -even for pregnant women- of synthetic folic acid. I stress synthetic because there is no UL for folic acid found naturally in food, but fortified food and supplements contain the synthetic form.

*for a comprehensive list of folic acid and other vitamin recommendations visit www.ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets

Don’t think you’re getting too much folic acid? – Think again

Here is an average days’ worth of folic acid intake:

Morning multivitamin = 400 ug folic acid (synthetic)

*if you’re not taking a daily multi, GET ON ONE, and then read my article on why you need a daily [link]Multivitamin[/link]

Breakfast cereal (3/4 cup) = 400 ug folic acid (synthetic additive)

Why do I note again that these sources are synthetic? Because synthetic folic acid absorbs at 170% greater rate than folic acid in food!!!

So, just from breakfast we have an intake 800 ug, nearing the upper end of recommended intake. This goes without considering that bread is also fortified with folic acid at 25 ug (synthetic) per slice.  Add in a single folic acid supplement and you blow past the UL by a longshot.

YIKES! How bad are the effects of toxicity?

Oh just some simple li’l things like “adverse health effects,” masking B-12 deficiency and PERMANENT NERVE DAMAGE!

So, please, consider the fact that folic acid is very prevalent in your daily vitamin and also fortified in your foods. Weigh the potential side effects of excess intake against benefits (lol there are none), and make your own decision.

Piece of Cake … Nutrition:

Stop taking extra folic acid supplements

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