Folate Making Headlines Again

You can learn a lot about what’s good for your body – and what isn’t – by reading medical literature. But you have to be careful. Take, for instance, two recent studies that gave negative press to some very beneficial vitamins. The way these study results were reported can give the impression that we don’t need vitamins B12, B6, and folate. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s the real story…

Both studies found that a cocktail of B12, B6, and folate lower homocysteine (a byproduct of an amino acid found in the blood). But, surprisingly, they didn’t find that this translated into less risk of mortality or cardiovascular events.

In fact, several previous studies have shown that homocysteine is a marker for increased risk of heart disease and stroke. And homocysteine levels go up when the body doesn’t have enough B vitamins. Also, low levels of folate have been associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

Folate affects a lot more than heart health. It regulates DNA in cells, which is important for healthy cell division. For mothers-to-be, adequate folate is needed to prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses, miscarriages, and Down’s syndrome. It is particularly effective in preventing colon and breast cancer. And it has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by more than 50 percent. It also reduces high blood pressure, as well as the risk of stroke.

What I find most disturbing about these two recent studies is that because both found a slight increased cancer risk in patients taking folate and B vitamin supplements, researchers are now questioning their safety. And because of the way this has been reported, people are now afraid of these essential nutrients. Meanwhile, the increase was so small it was not even considered statistically significant. Plus, the overwhelming majority of studies on folate have found it to be cancer protective.

What should you do? Let science continue to sort out the confusion. In the meantime, make sure you get adequate folate to protect your health – and not only in your daily multivitamin. Folate is found in leafy green vegetables, oranges, broccoli, asparagus, peas, and some beans.

There is one caveat, however. About 20 percent of the population has a gene mutation that prevents them from getting the benefit of the folate in their food or the usual form found in multivitamins. It is a good idea to get tested by your doctor for this mutation. If you have it, you need to take folate in its activated form: 5 methyl tetra hydro folate (5 MTHF).