1

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Folic acid supplements?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 03, 2013 at 11:08 PM

What are peoples opinions on folic acid supplements? because I've never heard of them being particularly bad before but Dave Asprey (bulletproof exec) said that he considers them to cause cancer and that people shouldn't take them. I was wondering on opinions because my parents both take the supplement and have done for years and obviously I don't want them taking something that is harming them!

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on January 04, 2013
at 09:13 PM

Woohoo! Your name always come to mind when I think of biochem geekery on PH. (And I mean that as a compliment!)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on January 04, 2013
at 06:37 PM

Biochemistry looks good to me, Amy!

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12672)

on January 04, 2013
at 05:01 AM

This link seems well supported for prostate cancer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19276452?dopt=AbstractPlus

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on January 04, 2013
at 04:46 AM

I've seen it shortened to THF as well.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on January 04, 2013
at 04:45 AM

Tetrahydrofolate or tetrahydrofolic acid.

3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on January 04, 2013
at 03:51 AM

I agree. You need to search for folate, not folic acid.

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3 Answers

3
Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on January 04, 2013
at 06:01 PM

I read a couple of studies about the potential negative effects of synthetic folic acid for a grad class not long ago. I'll try to find some links this weekend & post them.

Like others have said, any negatives seem to come from synthetic folic acid, and not the naturally occurring folate.

  1. Synthetic folic acid needs to be converted to the active form, methyl-tetrahydrofolate (MTHF). There are genetic polymorphisms in the gene that codes for the enzyme that does this conversion, meaning some people make the conversion better than others. (5-MTHFR is the enzyme, 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase. Make whatever joke of the abbreviation you like!)

  2. If you're one of the people who don't make this conversion so well, you end up with a lot of what they call unmetabolized folic acid running around in your body, and it's this excess of the synthetic stuff that seems to be correlated (not necessary causative, just correlative) with certain types of cancer -- probably because of the way folic acid and folate interact with DNA on a chemical level.

  3. People might be getting WAY more folic acid than they realize, particularly if they're following the Standard American Diet. (I don't want to say "SAD diet" b/c that annoys me as much as "PIN number" or "ATM machine," but I digress.) Let's say someone eats plenty of grain products -- the flour used in most of those is fortified with folic acid. Add to that the folic acid that might be in a multivitamin someone takes, and then maybe even MORE folic acid in an extra supplement. Whoa, Nelly! Just because folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects doesn't mean it's appropriate or necessary for everyone, across the board, to be supplementing with it willy-nilly. (And might even be unnecessary in women looking to have children unless they're actually deficient in it, which it seems more people were prior to fortification in the 1990s.)

I think, as always, that unless there's a specific reason for someone to supplement, the best strategy is to just eat REAL FOOD. It's darn near impossible to overdose on natural folate via spinach, broccoli, kale, etc.

(P.S. I may have gotten some of the names wrong here. If so, I'm sure the biochem-savvy people will correct me.)

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on January 04, 2013
at 09:13 PM

Woohoo! Your name always come to mind when I think of biochem geekery on PH. (And I mean that as a compliment!)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on January 04, 2013
at 06:37 PM

Biochemistry looks good to me, Amy!

2
776e2aa4718c4622b7244de0d95ac589

on January 04, 2013
at 03:45 AM

I have heard (internet sources so who knows really) the same thing re: folic acid --> cancer. Instead I take folate supplements (part of an all natural pre-natal). Natural version from what I've read. Folic acid doesn't break down the same way as folate does in the body. You really want folate (not the acid per say). Not a doctor so take my advice for what its worth.

3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on January 04, 2013
at 03:51 AM

I agree. You need to search for folate, not folic acid.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on January 04, 2013
at 04:46 AM

I've seen it shortened to THF as well.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on January 04, 2013
at 04:45 AM

Tetrahydrofolate or tetrahydrofolic acid.

0
B1002c0e81abb760e87ec46d9caedcf1

on January 04, 2013
at 04:38 AM

In women of childbearing age, folic acid supplementation has a demonstrable and meaningful benefit, reducing the incidence of NTDs. Its use in this population is evidence-based and demonstrably effective. And for treatments for conditions like end-stage kidney disease, folic acid may be of benefit. But when we look at the use of folic acid for primary prevention, the data are less clear. In children, men, and women beyond their childbearing years, supplementation in the absence of deficiency has no demonstrated health benefits, and there are worrying signals that it may raise cancer risks, possibly by “feeding” existing cancers.

Is fortification of our food supply harming and hurting? The benefits on NTD incidence have been demonstrated, while the harms haven’t been proven yet. Still, folic acid’s evolving story may become a cautionary tale about the consequences of fortification and supplementation with the hope of improved health outcomes. If we’re not in our childbearing years, we may be better off relying only on food sources for folate. So pass the spinach, and hold the multivitamins with folic acid.

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