I recently went to the supermarket to pick up some eggs and noticed that now there is a company selling eggs fortified with folic acid. We are already consuming folic acid from fortified cereals and grains in our diets. There is also the use of supplemental folic acid. Are we getting too much?
Folic acid is also known as folacin, folate, pteroylglutamic acid, and Vitamin B9. It is a B vitamin. This vitamin helps the body make healthy new cells. Folate is needed for DNA synthesis and repair in dividing cells. Everyone needs folic acid. For women who may get pregnant, it is especially important. In the 1970s, it had become possible to fortify vitamins with folic acid, and there were some recommendations that flour be fortified with additional folic acid. Originally, the effort was directed at women in their reproductive years to lessen their dangers of giving birth to a child with neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Scientists increasingly suspect, however, that a greater consumption of folic acid may also reduce the danger of Alzheimer’s disease, and also offer some protective effects against certain kinds of cancer as well as heart disease.
Folate has been recognized as important in cancer research. Cancer cells rapidly divide and studies have shown that by blocking folic acid the proliferation of tumors is stopped. So blocking folate or limiting its supply prevents cancer growth.
Studies also show defective DNA, which occurs in folate-deficient megaloblastic anemia can be repaired by taking folate. This holds true for precancerous mutations.
So folate can feed an established cancer yet protect against its development in the first place. This is certainly very confusing.
Some evidence shows the risk of colorectal cancer has increased since the introduction of folic acid fortification in the United States and Canada. On the other hand, evidence from the CDC shows the rate of decline in fatal strokes is greater since fortification in Canada and the U.S.
It looks like more research is necessary before concluding whether we are better off with fortification then we once were. Adding more folic acid to the food supply? I don’t think so. In the mean time, foods with folic acid in them include leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas and nuts. Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products also contain folic acid.