Folate, the feds, and you

Folate, a B vitamin, frequently appears in news about dietary supplement research. (Note: folic acid is the form found in supplements or fortified foods.)

For example, an article earlier this year offered this announcement: “Higher Folate Levels Linked To Reduced Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease. ” (JAMA and Archives Journals: 2007, January 9)

And you wouldn’t have to look too far to discover current research on folate deficiency associated with the potential for cardiovascular problems, or folate deficiency linked to higher rates of breast, pancreatic, or colon cancer.  

Of course, when folate was first identified and studied 70 years ago, the chief draw for researchers was its role in combating anemia and supporting the health of women during pregnancy. But since then, as understanding of the vitamin has grown, it’s come under scrutiny for many other reasons.

Indeed in 1996, the US federal government decided that the health benefits of folic acid were very clear–and yet too many Americans were not getting enough from their diets. The response? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published regulations requiring the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products–where you’ll find it today (check nutritional labels).

For more information on whether you’re getting enough folate in your diet, and who should consider supplementing, see the Office of Dietary Supplement fact sheet on FOLATE:

http://www.ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/folate.asp

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