Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Scare Tactics to Bolster Grain Consumption

Be afraid, very afraid - if you don't eat plenty of folic acid enriched grain products each day, you'll have children with birth defects.

That's the explicit message hot off the press, Could low-carb diets lead to birth defects?

"Blood levels of folate in young women are dropping, a disturbing development that could lead to increased birth defects and may be due to low-carb diets or the popularity of unfortified whole-grain breads."


"Diet trends may have been be another factor, said Dr. Joseph Mulinare, a CDC epidemiologist who was the study's lead author.

He noted that in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring that folic acid be added to breads, cereals and other products that use enriched flour. Whole-grain breads were not under that mandate because they already contain some folate.

Low-carb diets increased in popularity during the early 2000s. Women who avoided flour and bread products because of their carbohydrates may have also taken in less folic acid, Mulinare said.Eating certain foods also helps, especially breads, cereals and other products containing enriched flour."

If you could see my face right now, you'd notice a very big eye roll as I shake my head at the insanity of this. Never mind that the survey didn't actually look at the diet of those whose blood samples were found low in folate; never mind this is simply one more excuse to push eating processed grains; and never mind real whole food - vegetables, beans, fruits and some cuts of meat are exceptional foods to meet folate requirements.

One only needs to look at foods routinely consumed on a low-carbohydrate diet and compare them to the "miracle" folic-acid enriched grain products promoted in the above article to see the sham of this scare tactic designed to make you eat more processed grains!

World's Healthiest Foods provides a comprehensive list of foods "rich" with folate - notice the top ten are NOT whole grains or enriched grains, but are real whole foods; in fact, in the longer list toward the bottom of the page, not one of the "excellent sources" are a grain or grain product, not one of the "very good" or even "good" sources are either - they're ALL whole foods - meats, fruits, nuts, vegetables, roots, mushrooms, beans - with almost all of them not only allowed, but encouraged and mandatory in a carbohydrate restricted diet.

On the other hand, the Partnership for Essential Nutrition, an organization that is highly critical of carbohydrate restricted diets includes these foods as good choices to eat:

Bread, enriched white 1 slice 27
Breakfast cereals 1 ounce (approx 1 cup) Approx. 100-400. Check the label
Pasta, enriched ½ cup 53
Rice, white enriched ½ cup 54

No thanks, with just 2 cups romaine, 1 cup cooked spinach I'll easily meet the 400mcg requirement without even specifically trying - if I add in tomatoes, cucumbers, some chickpeas and some more veggies and I can easily double that with real whole food that also come complete with an abundance of other essential nutrients without any added sugars, vegetable oils or processed grains!

UPDATE 02/21/07: A reader emailed with more foods as listed in the USDA Nutrient Database:

Liver – chicken – pan fried per 100mg: Folate, food mcg 560
Chicken liver pate: Folate, food mcg 321

compared with the "wonder" food:
Whole-wheat bread per 100mg: Folate, food mcg 50


  1. Anonymous2:55 PM

    I just heard this one a week or so ago. Let's see it caused me to go spend $100 bucks on medicine when all I went in for was a regular woman's exam. I'm such a sucker.

    You mean I could eat a salad instead of all the hell I'm going through right now with side effects?

    As soon as I can stand to eat again a spinach salad sounds divine.

  2. It's infuriating to see grains - whether in corn syrup, cereal, bread or pasta form - continuing to get a bill of good health when humans are clearly in a state of toxic response after consuming them (to wit: diabetes type 2 epidemic). Folate is prevalent in vegetables, which are lower in calories, full of nutrients, are not refined and are...yes...whole, natural foods! But let's face it, Lucky Charms has more marketing mojo than broccoli. If marketers can tell people that something sweet, processed and unrecognizable as natural food is "healthy", there are plenty who want to believe it and will. How dare we challenge the holy grails of health! Good for you for speaking ou on this. (This is a topic I rant about regularly on my health blog, www.marksdailyapple.com)

  3. They just never give up and what is really sad is that people actually buy that garbage. Thank you for the straight scoop.

  4. Anonymous12:27 PM

    See also Michael Eades blog on the dangers of excess folate consumption.

    Excellent blog Regina!!!


  5. Anonymous1:23 PM

    So, for folic acid, you need almost an ounce and a half of calves' liver to match the nutritional power of a mere POUND of bread?

    no Wonder they're pushing Bread!

  6. Anonymous1:35 PM

    The biggest problem I see is that they are using the time tested scare tactics to get women to demand more drugs. Big pharma found out a long time ago that the more they scare people the more money they make.

  7. I must wholeheartedly agree, and I have personally suffered the adverse effects of excessive folic acid. My blood levels were unmeasurably high, preventing b-12 from entering my red blood cells. Problem is hard to diagnose, since the b-12 will sit in your blood stream (but not red blood cells) when it's trapped.

    Note I have never eaten 'excessive' folate, but only taken regular supplements and prenatal supplements for 2 pregnancies.

    Also note, the very original birth defect studies were done in south texas on poverty stricken women, supplemented with 100 micrograms of folic acid during pregnancy. The RDA of 400 came about simply when people noticed high levels of folic acid lower levels of homocysteine in men with high homocysteine. High levels of niacin lower levels of cholesterol, but they didn't change the RDA for it.

    There will be more & more women especially, suffering from b12 deficiency as the years go by and the supplementation continues.