Naturally occurring folate, which is a water-soluble B9 (as found in leafy greens), is an important part of a healthy diet. Folate deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, infertility, heart attack, stroke, ulcers, macrocytic anemia, and other illnesses. Additionally, folate is critical for fetal development, and especially important for pregnant women. Folate aids in neural tube development, and can prevent severe birth defects of the spinal cord and brain. Folic acid, is a synthetic form of folate manufactured in a lab..like pharmaceutical drug and is the form found in many fortified and enriched foods, and in multi-vitamins and of course in poor quality prenatal vitamins. A Norwegian study published last month found that heart-disease patients whose diets included folic acid fortification and supplementation were 43% more likely to die of cancer. Equally alarming is the study that found that folic acid supplementation by pregnant women increases the risk of childhood asthma by 26%…and now autism. Still other studies have linked folic acid supplementation to prostate and colorectal cancers. Approximately 10 years ago most principled supplement companies made the leap to toss all folic acid from supplements and switch to MethylFolate. MethylFloate is the bioactive form or usable form of folate, the form the cells need to make energy and repair DNA, the same kind of DNA that parents give to their offspring. In the presence of a MTHFR MUTATION, the inability of the body to convert pharmaceutical folic acid to useable folate creates inflammation in the body and blocks up the pathways for the body to BE ABLE to utilize the nutritious form of folate. When this happens in the body, cells do not form properly and a deficiency ensues. Folate plays a critical role in formation of the spine of a fetus. When folate levels are low in a pregnancy, the fetus has a much greater risk of being born with spina bifida, or other neural tube defects; or more commonly a lip or tongue tie, or any other disorder that affects the undifferentiated cells in the “midline” during embryonic development. Sadly many medical providers have used the terms folic acid and folate interchangeably. THEY are NOT the same. They do not react in the body the same and they do not produce the same outcomes. Many of the recent studies to associate correlation between autism and FOLIC ACID have mis- used the word folate. Have we gotten so far away from healing that now we should tell patients to STOP EATING GREEN VEGGIES…well I hope NOT? For many years I have urged patients to avoid supplements contain any sort of synthetic form of any vitamin. Whole foods and whole-food based supplements are the only places to get the nutrients and antioxidants that our bodies so desperately need. The top 5 folate-containing green vegetables • spinach • romaine lettuce • asparagus • mustard greens • collard greens
At this point, the recent study about Folate/folic acid and the correlation to autism, the evidence is extremely premature. However this study brought to light that blood tests done around the time of birth found that about 10 percent of mothers had excessively high levels of “folic acid/folate” and/or vitamin B12 in their blood. Interestingly this number correlates approximately with the number of women affected with homozygous c677t MTHFR (2 copies of the mutation or 10% function of the enzyme). Those people had an increased risk of having a child who would later be diagnosed with ASD. The findings have not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal; and is being presented at a conference this week. At the very least the media is focusing attention on this very important subject. We know the research will now focus on the distinction between folate and folic acid.