Folate vs. Folic Acid
September 13th 2009 is ear marked as the date that Food Standards Australia and New Zealand have put into place the mandatory fortification of folic acid in all wheat flour used for bread making. On the surface this may sound like a good thing but there are major players in the health industry that are not so sure this is such a healthy idea.
Consumers want fewer additives in their food and more information about how it is made, not mass medication with potentially harmful substances. Mandatory fortification also sends the wrong message suggesting that supplements can overcome the need to eat nutritious wholesome nature foods.
Folic Acid is the synthetic form of folate (Vitamin B9). Natural folate is found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, bananas, legumes and dried beans, to name a few. Folate is needed when rapid growth occurs. Pregnant women need folate. Evidence shows that pregnant women who do not have enough folate have a greater chance that their developing baby will have a neural tube defect which could cause; spina bifida, anacephaly, microcephaly and cleft palate.
There are many more ways the body uses folate, and there is positive evidence for the need of this vitamin in its natural form of folate.
However New Zealand does not want to follow Australia’s lead with the mandatory fortification of folic acid, based on evidence, that folic acid supplementation in men increases the chances of prostate cancer three fold. There is also evidence from research done at Tufts University that supplementation with folic acid may worsen a B12 deficiency.
The only breads that will not be fortified in Australia are organic breads and breads made from other grains, like rice, corn and rye. Certified organic products are not only exempt from mandatory fortification, the integrity of their production and processing is independently audited each year.
For me, I will continue to make my own bread with whole grains and organic flours, on occasion no doubt there will be times when I will eat bread that has been fortified, but the small amount of folic acid should not affect my health. I want you to be aware of what they are doing so that you can make an educated decision about the food and bread you eat.
NB: On October 9th 2009 the FSANZ mandatory fortification of bread with iodine will be also implemented, more on that in the next newsletter.