Vitamin B9 is crucial for cell growth and tissue development. It’s an essential vitamin, meaning the body can’t produce it, so we must get it from our diet. There are currently two forms of vitamin B9 in the American food supply: one is naturally occurring … the other is synthetic.
Most people — including health professionals, the government, and food manufacturers — falsely believe there is no difference between the two …
But recent studies are proving natural B9 is not interchangeable with the manufactured form. Keep reading, because this one is a shocker. . .
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The widespread use of synthetic B9 may be giving all of us cancer.
You need to know where this manmade vitamin is hiding … and how you can avoid it without going in to dangerous B9 deficiency.
A noble cause goes awry
Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9, found in legumes, crucifers, leafy greens, and citrus fruit.
Folic acid, on the other hand, is a synthetic, man-made vitamin designed to “fortify” processed cereals and grains in the United States and over 50 other countries.
The two are nearly identical at the molecular level: just one extra proton differentiates folic acid from folate. In fact, they’re so chemically similar that the terms folate and folic acid are used interchangeably, especially in the food and supplement industries, much to the confusion of consumers and scientists alike.
However, as you’ll see in a minute, this rather casual approach might be dangerous … because that slight molecular difference is enormous when it comes to how the body uses the substance.
But first, it’s important to understand why synthetic folic acid has become so prevalent in the food supply in the past few decades.
As I mentioned, vitamin B9 is fundamental to cell growth and development. It helps prevent anemia by forming healthy red blood cells, and it’s key to strong skin, nails, and hair.
It’s especially important for women of child-bearing age. A healthy baby depends on the mother to consume an adequate amount of folate. Folate is known to significantly reduce serious birth defects in the spinal cord and brain called neural tube defects, or NTDs.
In the United States, NTDs used to occur in approximately 4,100 births out of 4 million, or about one-tenth of one percent (0.1%). (Global rates are at about two-tenths of one percent.)1
America’s 0.1% rate of defects moved the FDA to require food manufacturers to add synthetic folic acid to cereal and grain products—like “enriched” pasta, breads, flours, and rice. The goal was to increase the daily intake by 100 mcg. (They overshot it; the daily intake has nearly doubled to 190 mcg.)2
Since the requirement went into effect in early 1998, neural tube defects in newborns have decreased by about 30%.3 (One study from the British Journal of Nutrition explained that not all NTDs can be ameliorated with folic acid.)4
It’s wonderful that thousands of American babies have been saved from these terrible spinal defects. Though I absolutely support the effort to reduce them — no matter how seldom these defects occur — this move by the FDA may be doing what the military calls “collateral damage” to unintended targets.
In fact, it may be giving the rest of us cancer.
Folate vs. folic acid …
one proton can make a HUGE difference
Remember, the difference between folate and folic acid is just one proton. (That’s what makes it an ‘acid’.) The distinction may seem slight … but that one little proton makes all the difference during digestion and metabolism.
According to the journal Advances in Nutrition, when you ingest folate, it’s broken down in the intestines into its usable form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5-MTHF. It enters the “folate pool” for cellular use without a problem.
With synthetic folic acid, however, the liver has to use a special enzyme called DHF reductase to make the 5-MTHF usable. Problem is, we only have a limited supply of this enzyme. And if our bodies lack enough of the enzyme to break folic acid down into usable 5-MTHF, the “unmetabolized folic acid” enters the bloodstream as an oxidized molecule.5
That word ‘oxidized’ here is key … because the excess folic acid causes increased inflammation. As a reader of this newsletter, you know that cancer loves inflammation, as do many other chronic diseases.
Like all B vitamins, folate is water soluble, and excess supply is flushed out of the body. But unmetabolized folic acid does not flush out of the body. Instead it floats around the bloodstream, increasing inflammation wherever it goes.6
Multiple different studies and experts all suggest that excess unmetabolized folic acid in the body can cause pre-existing cancer cells or lesions to grow. In fact, excess folic acid has been linked to a variety of cancers, including …
- Breast cancer. A recent animal study shows that folic acid supplementation increases the size and volume of pre-grown breast cancer tumors.7
While animal studies should always be confirmed by additional studies on human cells, remember the FDA itself considers animal studies enough evidence that there is a possibility for danger in humans.Consider also that one long-term study showed women who took folic acid during pregnancy, as recommended, were twice as likely to die from breast cancer 30 years later7a … while another 10-year study showed folic acid from multivitamins increased breast cancer risk by up to 30%.7b
- Prostate cancer. Out of nearly 650 men in a 12 year study, those who supplemented with folic acid were up to 14.5% more likely to contract prostate cancer, compared with 3.3% in the placebo group. (“In contrast,” the authors noted, “baseline dietary folate intake … was inversely associated with risk of prostate cancer.”)8
- Colorectal cancer. One 2009 study showed that despite increases of folic acid in the food supply in Canada and the U.S., colorectal cancers have increased. This isn’t damning evidence against folic acid, but nor is it helpful.9
There is also evidence folic acid increases the incidence of cancers of the stomach, pancreas, and esophagus … some of the most aggressive cancers.
Unmetabolized folic acid increases inflammation, is responsible for cell growth, and, on top of it, reduces levels of natural killer cells that usually reduce tumor growth.10 I’m greatly concerned about the use of this artificial nutrient.
But here’s where it gets even crazier:
Natural folate – as opposed to man-made folic acid – protects against cancer.
Ironic how far the FDA missed the boat with just one proton difference, isn’t it?
Avoiding folic acid without
going into B9 deficiency
Just to be clear: naturally derived folate is completely safe and an essential nutrient to a healthy body. There have been no adverse effects reported from natural folate. In fact, long-term B9 deficiency can lead to anemia, certain heart diseases, osteoporosis, fatigue, possibly Alzheimer’s disease, and as you just discovered, cancer.
Increasing your intake of those crucifers, legumes, leafy greens and citrus fruit will help maintain your folate levels. And, there’s no harm in taking a naturally derived B-complex supplement. Excess natural folate does pass harmlessly from the body.
However, beware your standard grocery store brand multivitamin. Most multis use synthetic folic acid (and may even try and fool you by calling it folate.) Look for the brand name Metafolin, one of the only folate supplements available, or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
Once again we see there’s only better health to be gained by avoiding processed food products. Avoiding synthetic folic acid is yet another reason to get all of these “foods” out of your kitchen!
Lee Euler, Publisher