Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Low-Carb Lack Of Folate Hate Debate

Here we go yet again with the obvious media bias against low-carb!

Have you seen this column as well as the merciless beating the low-carb diet is taking in the press right now after the release of a new Centers For Disease Control (CDC) study showing the important B complex vitamin folate levels in women has dropped somewhat in recent years causing health atrocities in younger women like birth defects? The coverage of this story is pretty disgusting if you ask me.

Here's what they're saying about the alleged low-carb connection:

"Low-carb diets may hit levels of folate."

"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."

"Experts suspect diets are to blame for the drop. And breads fortified with folic acid have fallen from favor in low-carb diets."

"Low-carb diets have increased in popularity since 2000. Women who avoided flour and bread products for their carbohydrates may have also taken in less folic acid."

What's with all the emphasis on livin' la vida low-carb and lower folate levels? Well, it seems one of the primary sources of folic acid is in fortified whole grain breads which are generally avoided by people watching their carbohydrate intake, right? True enough, but health officials at the CDC call this a "disturbing" trend that MUST be the result of low-carb diets.

Um, here's a question for you. If the source of folic acid that women should be consuming is some bread products that have had folic acid ADDED to them, then why can't women simply take a supplement that gives them adequate amounts of folic acid to begin with rather than eating the bread to begin with? I mean DUH!

Most people who are livin' la vida low-carb are already supplementing their diet with things like calcium, potassium, fiber, and more. Why don't these women just add a folic acid vitamin pill to the mix? Gee, now there's a thought!

But the lamentation over declining folate levels has got the CDC in such a tizzy because all these little babies are being born with distorted spines and brains which is truly awful. Let me be crystal clear--I AM NOT MAKING LIGHT OF BIRTH DEFECTS! With that said, though, can we really put the onus for this issue all on the low-carb lifestyle? Not hardly!

While this story pushes hard the notion that women should be getting folic acid from eating such high-carb foods as cereals and breads that have been fortified with folic acid, an artificial form of folate, there's another story by Dr. Manny Alvarez published today hailing such natural forms of folate found in low-carb vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. How ya like them apples all you low-carb haters?!

In other words, if a young woman who is of childbearing age is following a low-carb diet and eating these nutritious and delicious non-starchy, low-glycemic veggies like she should be, then she is definitely getting all the folate her body needs to prevent birth defects in any future children she may give birth to. Just because there has been an 8 to 16 percent decline in folate levels in young American women in recent years doesn't mean the CDC or anyone else should ASSUME it's because of low-carb diets.

This is the first time since the government started promoting folic acid to women over the past decade that they have seen a decline in folate levels, which hit Caucasian women hard but African-American women experienced the least amount of folate in their blood of all races and ethnic groups.

The study of 4,500 U.S. women ages 15 to 44 took place from 1999 through 2004 and included personal interviews, physical exams, and blood tests. The full report can be read in the January 5, 2007 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers theorize obesity had something to do with the reduction in folate as well because obese people metabolize folate differently than their skinnier counterparts and actually need MORE folic acid to prevent birth defects.

But Dr. Joseph Mulinare, the lead researcher on the study who is an epidemiologist, swears it has to be the popularity of low-carb diets that is to blame for this since the bread-shunning weight loss method became all the rage in 2000 and hit its peak in 2004. He claims too many women must have stopped eating the folic acid-enriched flour products that would have kept their folate levels high enough to prevent the birth defects from happening.

Excuse me, Dr. Mulinare, but that's just one big copout and a lame one at that! If women were getting their folic acid from bread products before they started livin' la vida low-carb and they knew that was the source for it, then wouldn't it stand to reason that they would seek out other alternative sources for folic acid when they began their new way of eating? Additionally, as I have already stated, folate is found naturally in such low-carb staple foods as broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower. If they're doing the low-carb plan right, then a folate deficiency would NOT be an issue.

I know bashing low-carb every chance possible is a popular thing in the media these days. It's amazing how many times the obituary for this healthy nutritional approach has been written and yet they keep trying to beat a supposedly dead horse over and over and over again. Do they even realize how much credence they are paying to low-carb every time they mention it?

Wanna know what's so gut-busting funny about the coverage of this study? At the end of the article, it states that "vitamins and supplements are the best way to get the recommended daily dose of 400 micrograms of folic acid."

Did you hear that? Folic acid-enriched breads and cereals aren't even the primary or "best" source for creating folate in the body. It's SUPPLEMENTATION my dear! You know what? That's something women can do who are following a low-carb plan. Oh my, the common sense logic of all this should be an embarassment to all those poor ignorant reporters who were quick to jump on the anti-low-carb bandwagon on this one.

Sorry people, but you got it wrong--YET AGAIN!

Perhaps all these negative naysayers should consider educating themselves a little bit better about what the low-carb lifestyle is REALLY all about rather than going around making themselves look like a bunch of fools when they follow this template to decimate livin' la vida low-carb. Playing the role of court jester might be fun for these people, but nobody really respects them. As for me, I'll lead my low-carb crusade as a mighty warrior knight with the sword of truth on my side.

If any of you jokers in the media try to maliciously malign low-carb again, then you WILL face the wrath of "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Man" yet again. And it won't be a pretty sight I can promise you that! You have been fairly warned.

1-6-07 UPDATE: You might want to visit Calianna's Low Carb Cottage for a listing of even more low-carb foods that contain LOTS of folate in them. She makes some interesting observations about the amount of folate you get from the foods on this list compared with the artificially-infused folic acid put in the so-called healthy whole grains. Very enlightening, Calianna!

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Sigh. Just most media hype and lies, with some sloppy science thrown into the mix, I am afraid.

The fact of the matter is that it has everything to do with a unbalanced intake of vitanutrients - which is certainly not the result of low-carb diets!

A recent 2005 study says it all: deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12 have been associated with neurodegenerative disease.

In their conclusions the rersearchers say:
"The mechanism by which high folate intake may increase cognitive decline is not clear. One possibility is that high intake may be masking unrecognized vitamin B12 deficiency. This complication was previously suggested as a potential pitfall of folic acid supplementation in food and multivitamins. There was also the unresolved question of whether folic acid may exacerbate the neurologic syndrome associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Such concerns were instrumental in the recommended upper limit for folate intake of 1000 mcg/d. With widespread multivitamin use and folic acid fortification, it is likely that a significant percentage of the population is consuming more than the upper limit and well above the dietary reference intake of 400 mcg/d. The possibility that high intake of folic acid through multivitamins and fortified food may have deleterious effects on the health of the older population warrants further study."

Folic acid and Vitamin B-12 work in conjunction with each other so this study, which shows a worsening of brain function with higher intakes of folic acid, but a better outcome with Vitamin B-12 is challenging.

I wonder if this outcome is because folic acid tends to be taken in isolation as a supplement or an addition to foods such as bread, trends that are on the increase, whereas Vitamin B-12 tends to be obtained from natural animal-based foods, which are somewhat in decline? If this is the reason, then it strengthens the case for eating real food instead of relying on supplements to make good an inadequate diet.

All of this may be bad news for vegans and other extreme vegetarians whose intakes are likely to be unbalanced with higher than safe intakes of folic acid, and inadequate amounts of B-12.

Reference: Martha Clare Morris, ScD; Denis A. Evans, MD; Julia L. Bienias, ScD; Christine C. Tangney, PhD; Liesi E. Hebert, ScD; Paul A. Scherr, PhD, ScD; Julie A. Schneider, MD. Dietary Folate and Vitamin B12 Intake and Cognitive Decline Among Community-Dwelling Older Persons. Arch Neurol. 2005;62:641-645.

1/06/2007 4:22 AM  
Blogger Calianna said...

Oops, Jimmy - it's not the whole grain products that are fortified with folate - it's the refined grain products that are fortified with folate. The articles I read blasted the idea of even eating un-fortified whole grain products (I have yet to see real stone ground whole wheat flour that has artificial folic acid added to it).

They're not just blasting away at low carb (again), they're also blasting away at anything "natural" in the food supply.

Sounds to me like the artificial vitamin manufacturers and flour refiners are making a desperate attempt to not lose any more business to healthier eating styles.

If it's a matter of obese women needing more folate in their diets than 'normal' sized women (like Susique also pointed out on her Waisted in the Wasteland blog), then let's just get more folate into the obese - which they can do by consuming more green veggies, instead of needing even more refined grains. The excess consumption of folate fortified grains is probably the whole reason they're so obese to begin with!

I went into a little rant about it on my blog too, pointing out that adequate folate is naturally available in so many foods that are staples of a low carb diet. Believe it or not chicken livers are a real folate and carb bargain!

1/06/2007 9:50 AM  
Blogger Calianna said...

Oops again - I went away and woke up a little more and realized that whole grain cereals are *often* fortified with various vitamins and minerals, so I was wrong, they're just lashing out against anything that's not processed and artificially fortified. I'm sure they'd have no problem with people eating the 1-part whole wheat flour to 5-parts (fortified) refined flour that is what passes itself off as whole wheat bread most of the time.

[Hey, it's early, and I have brain fog from this stupid cold! Although we know what the low-fatters would say - not enough carbs in my diet, my brain function is suffering! ;)]

Also, another thought came to mind, that goes along with what Science4U was saying -

I remember a couple decades ago reading that when they refine grains (primarily wheat flour, of course), then add back in artificial nutrients, they only replace something like 5 of the 2 dozen or more that they remove, and most of those in smaller amounts than what was in the orignial grain.

I remember also reading that in addition to the balance of nutrients being off in refined grains, the white flour itself "robs" your system of B-vitamins, so that you actually end up absorbing even fewer nutriens when you eat that stuff. When you have smaller amounts of the vitamins in the food to begin with, you can end up with a serious deficit.

They keep mucking with real food, deciding which nutrients in the whole product we really need, and which ones are just "extraneous". They think they can be safely eliminate certain ones through refinement and lack of supplementation with no problems.

The obesity epidemic and other rampant medical problems so prevalent these days are trying to tell them it just isn't working.

It makes me wonder how the refiners/artificial vitamin manufacturers think humans ever survived for so many generations before they came along and made food "better" for us. Sheesh, God doesn't make mistakes, he put the food here in whole form for a reason.

1/06/2007 11:28 AM  
Blogger PJ at TDLC said...

If the researchers were not tracking the food intake of these women and a control group prior to the effects, IT ISN'T RESEARCH. There was no plan, no data collection, no controls, no documentation, no blind -- there is one guy "spouting off a wild hypothesis personal opinion" and not a shred of even suggestion -- let alone evidence -- to support it. Immature and unprofessional... at best.

1/07/2007 2:08 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Another interesting observation, in my opinion, is that the Government itself (by means of the Food and Nutrition Board) has warned against the intake of folate fortified foods! How about that? So what is it? Do we need to consume loads of cereals and flour products fortified with folate, or not?

According to the Food and Nutrition Board, 1998 issue, we should NOT. I quote:

"Avoid foods fortified with folic acid. Taking folic acid without B12 can mask signs of B12 deficiency in red blood cells but will not protect against deficiencies in the nervous system. Folic acid and B12 work together and any supplementation program should include both of these nutrients."

Reference: (Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academy Press. Washington, DC 1998) .

Obviously, the Government itself doesn't know what to do and, of course, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Is that surprising? Not really...

Best thing to do is to consume "old-fashioned" foods: bone broths, soups based on real broths, liver, especially chicken liver, and green leafy veggies rich in natural folate. A home-made chicken or duck liver pate is delicious and easy to make (pate de fois gras) from pureed cooked liver, fat, pepper, parsley, broth and spices. Lovely as a filling for bell peppers with some sauteed bacon bits.

1/07/2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger grain free and lovin it said...


I was worried about this situation a little earlier, so I took a look at other sources of folate. What I found was that one avocado has 40 percent of RDA. Yes the poster child for low carb fruits is one of the best sources of folate. So eat up people; they are delicious and great for you.


1/07/2007 6:55 PM  
Blogger Lady Atkins said...

I take a multi-vitamin with folate AND a B-50 (for energy) with even more folate in it.

And avacado (see comment above)? I eat a whole one almost every day right now.

1/08/2007 11:29 PM  
Blogger Calianna said...

While I was searching through your archives (for the post about the UK pulling the ad promoting Atkins because there was no evidence it was healthy - still can't find it, btw), I came across a plug for my page - Thanks! I"m flattered!

I have yet to figure out how to subscribe to a blog in such a way that I can tell when there have been updates and comments added, without actually going back through ever single post to look for them... which is why I"m still looking for your post about the Atkins ad being pulled in the UK....

1/19/2007 10:12 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Hey Calianna,

You can access that column here.

There are a few ways you can find older columns--do a Google search, enter your search terms in that box at the top of my blog, or browse through my archives.

As for getting all the latest posts, you can subscribe to the My Yahoo! feed. Go to to find out more about how to add my blog to your preferences. When I update my blog, you'll know it immediately. :)

THANKS, Calianna!

1/19/2007 10:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home