Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mass dosing - why I don't support compulsory folic acid in bread

There are a number of reasons why I don't agree with mass dosing of folic acid (Vitamin B9) in bread.

Let me stay straight up that mum's to be should take a multivitamin of which folic acid of at least 400 micro grams. I might also say that research is also showing that other B vitamins, include B12 are very important in stopping birth defects. But this will be covered in another blog post.

Back to the question, why do I disagree with this legislation:

1) Mass dosing.The ethics of mass dosing is very dubious. Think over your life time. Have the health "experts" changed their tune. In my short life I have seen margarine go from health food to poison. Seen eggs go out of fashion, and now back in. Oil was bad, now oil high in plant factors (eg olive oil) is now seen as healthy. This is not including various "fads" that come along...

So what would have happened if they experts could control our food by their standards. We would have been dictated to may times, and many times come of worse. Science is always growing and changing, so people should be able to make their own choices. To sum it up, the crew at Health Freedom have this to say:

“If we agree that it is acceptable to dose over four million New Zealanders to protect a handful of pregnant mothers per year, it naturally follows that this will lead to medicines being added to our food for many other diseases. Where does it stop?”

2) Quality of folic acid. Folates and folic acid absorption is not well understood. There is great complexity in various bioavailability of folates and folic acid. This is far more complex than most people realize or understand. One day I will do a post and try to unpack some of this complexity. But right now you will need to take my word on this. Now if you were a bakery owner and the government dictated that you must put folic acid in every loaf would you choise the most expensive or the cheapest. I would choose the cheapest as it was not my choice to do this. Thus the cheapest folic acid will go in. In the vitamin industry you do get what you pay for, so getting the cheapest will result in a poor choice. For example if you reduce mixing times, you reduce cost, but increase risk of inhomogeneities. Thus you will end up with some batches bread having more folic acid, and some less.

3) Lull into false sense of security. As you need to eat 11 pieces of bread a day before the 400 micro gram intake is achieved (assuming no folic acid from othe substances such as vegetables, but as point (2) states the absorption from these vegetables is still being determined). Thus people who know about issues around birth defects and folic acid will still take a supplement. However I live in a suburb that has a very high percentage of lower socio economic class. From my observations they are not proactive in taking measures to make their life more healthy. Thus my concern is that they will be lulled into not seeking folic acid as they will assume that get enough through bread. Thus you my run the risk of actually increasing birth defects, instead of reducing them.

If you want to read more about this topic, I would suggest the article over at Health Freedom would be a very good start.

PS I am not even going down the road of what happens to your folic acid when you toast or cook your bread.

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