Wednesday, December 05, 2007

NYT: Folic Acid in Flour

We were just talking about missing micronutrients in the typical American diet because even the organic chickens and chicken broth we buy are kind of dead and processed. But sad to say, even MACRO nutrients like folate are going all deficient in our diet, which might lead to totally preventable but devastating conditions like neural tube defects in babies. And what's the solution? Teach people to eat more whole foods and veggies? Nope, let's dump more synthetic folate in processed flour (eeek).

Remember: to prevent neural tube defects, you need the folate BEFORE you get pregant. Taking a good prenatal vitamin or a supplement like Fertility Blend isn't a bad idea, in my humble opinion.

From the NY Times:

A Growing Debate Over Folic Acid in Flour

Every year, an estimated 200,000 children around the world are born with crippling defects of the spinal column. Many are paralyzed or permanently impaired by spina bifida; some, with a condition called anencephaly (literally, “no brain”), survive in a vegetative state.

It is a stubborn and terrible problem, in the developed and developing worlds alike. But many experts believe it could be greatly eased by a simple government measure: requiring that flour be fortified with the dietary supplement folic acid, which has been shown to prevent these neural tube defects if taken by expectant mothers from before conception through the first trimester.

The debate over folic acid is a familiar one, and Americans could be excused for thinking it was over. Since 1998, the federal government has required that almost all flour be fortified with the supplement.

But in fact, the requirement has meant women receive an average extra dose of just 100 micrograms of folic acid a day — far below the levels that have been shown in studies to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects. For more than a decade, the Food and Drug Administration has resisted calls to require that the amount be doubled...

Folic acid’s promise emerged 40 years ago, when British obstetricians realized that spina bifida often occurred when mothers had a form of anemia caused by folic acid deficiency. Then, in a 1991 British study of mothers of children with spina bifida, Dr. Nicholas Wald, the lead investigator, found such extraordinary results that he stopped the trial prematurely. When the women took folic acid daily before their next conception and through the first trimester of pregnancy, spina bifida recurrences fell 72 percent...

And there is good reason to think that requiring more fortification may prevent more birth defects. Blood levels of folate among women have been declining, according to a C.D.C. study released last January, perhaps because of worsening obesity and the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets.

Read more here.

According to Susan Weeds Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, here are some foods that are rich in folate:
  • whole grains
  • organ meats such as liver
  • leafy greens
  • parsley
  • chicory
  • amaranth
Other sources:

• 1/2 cup cooked lentils: 179 mcg

• 1 cup boiled collard greens: 177 mcg

• 1/2 cup canned chickpeas: 141 mcg

• 1 medium papaya: 115 mcg

• 1 cup cooked frozen peas: 94 mcg

• 4 spears steamed or boiled asparagus: 88 mcg

• 1/2 cup steamed broccoli: 52 mcg

• 1 cup strawberries: 40 mcg

• 1 medium orange: 39 mcg