Could your favorite morning cereal be giving you cancer? I know, scary. But, there is a real concern among scientists who think that too much folic acid may increase your odds of developing cancer. Enriched grains, like those found in cereal, snack bars, and other foods get a boost of folic acid, the synthetic form of the B vitamin folate.
Interestingly, the extra fortification is not meant for us, but as a protection for fetuses from developing rare but tragic birth defects. It appears to have worked, as the number of these birth defects has dropped by about 19 percent since 1998.
But, for women beyond their child-birthing years and men of all ages, the effects may be harmful.
“The more we learn about folic acid, the more it’s clear that giving it to everyone has very real risks,” says researcher David Smith, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford in England.
It’s really easy to go over your folic acid limit. If you eat cereal for breakfast, take a morning multivitamin, have a sandwich for lunch (with enriched bread), and a snack bar somewhere in between, that adds up!
Experts are worried most about the potential onset of colon cancer from the extra folic acid. Other studies show concerns for lung and prostate cancer.
“Unlike folate, folic acid isn’t found in nature, so we don’t know the effect of the excess,” says Smith.
Dr. Smith’s statement “fortifies” my philosophy on nutrition – stick with what is nature-made, and nine times out of 10, you will be healthier for it.