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The Madness of Folic Acid

Dec 11, 2017 0 comments

Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE)

The aforementioned toxins are not my only concern for the products in question. While I have spent hundreds of hours studying government websites, I really do not understand a decision that the FDA made regarding labeling. It is important to understand “DFE” because it is important to understand that the FDA is not, and will never be, a part of the solution (other than their strict regulations on FDA approved manufacturing facilities). The entire concept of “DFE” is shrouded in mystery and misinformation and it is a good example of how the FDA may not share my interest of using multivitamins to improve the health of the American public.

I do not understand how the FDA allowed for "DFE" to be put on labels without providing a clear clarification of all of the nuances of Dietary Folate. The allowance of "DFE" on labels can ONLY be rationally explained as a loophole for companies to lie on supplement labels in order to mislead customers so that they can purchase an inferior product thinking it is high quality.

The FDA describes it in this way: "'Folate' and 'Folic Acid' must be used for purposes of declaration in the labeling of conventional foods and dietary supplements. The declaration for folate must be in mcg DFE (when expressed as a quantitative amount by weight in a conventional food or a dietary supplement), and percent DV based on folate in mcg DFE. Folate may be expressed as a percent DV in conventional foods. When folic acid is added or when a claim is made about the nutrient, folic acid must be declared in parentheses, as mcg of folic acid. 7 DFE = Dietary Folate Equivalents; 1 DFE = 1 mcg naturally-occurring folate = 0.6 mcg folic acid." (Source)

To me, that translates to the following: You have permission to lie if you want and make false claims. If you choose to lie, you have to clarify your lie by lying more; and, if you clarify your lie by lying more then you need to further clarify by adding the true number of mcg in tiny font under your third lie. If for any reason, you do not choose to reap the benefits of making false claims, then you will not be permitted to further lie NOR will you be permitted to use the arbitrary calculation and therefore your product will appear inferior to companies who chose to lie.

I understand that the rationale for "DFE" is that it is used to explain the higher bioavailability of folic acid versus Methyl-Folate (Natural Folate) and 5-Tetra-MethylHydroFolate (Natural Folate). What I do not understand is how it has been overlooked that folic acid is not used as efficiently by the body AFTER it is absorbed when compared to Natural Folate. I also do not understand how folic acid is generally considered equal to Natural Folate when folic acid has been shown over and over to be harmful to the body

It is misleading to put "DFE" on labels. Although, I do not think it matters much because I do not think the public has any idea what “DFE” is.

Finding information on this topic is extremely difficult. I had to find the *formerly known as* IOM (now it is called National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine {website: http://www.nationalacademies.org/}) and, once I did, they led me to a dead end. I will provide relevant links to their website at the bottom of this article. Why is the former IOM important in all of this? Well, according to the U.S. N.I.H. (https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/), the "DFE"s were developed by the former IOM.

I am not sure what to call this organization and I am not sure the N.I.H. knows what to call them either as they write, "...developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences)." At the time of writing this article, the organization is called the "National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine." For the purpose of consistency and brevity, I will be referring to the organization as "the former IOM."

What is shocking to me is that I can only find two articles on the topic of "DFE" when I search their website. Those two articles tell us very little actual information about "DFE" and do not offer anything new.

It is my opinion that, for an organization that was set up in part by Abraham Lincoln in order to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science." (Source) , there is surprisingly little information available to the public. Instead of useful information, there is a large amount of short and vague articles combined with website-links that take visitors to an array of expensive books.

It is my opinion that, for an organization that has been around since the 19th century for the benefit of us all, they seem to enjoy changing their name frequently and they can not make up their mind as to the appearance of their website. I do not mean to insult them or make arbitrary points but instead to make the point that I do not understand why there are so many factors that result in "DFE" and the former IOM both being such a mystery. It is as though the truth (whatever it is) is hidden behind layers upon –unavailable to the public- layers.

I do not easily jump to conclusions and I will not jump to the conclusion to say that these layers are intentional. Instead, I want to say that I must be confused or missing a piece of the puzzle. I want to kindly ask for the FDA (or anyone who has access) to provide me with the written history of "DFE," including each organization that was involved in its creation and what must be thousands of hidden documents that support its addition to labels in the U.S.A. These documents must exist for two reasons:

  1. The specific issue addressed by "DFE" is ignored for the other 20+ vitamins and minerals found in supplements and fortified foods.
  2. The FDA does not change their stances or policies lightly.
  1. What Makes Vitamin B9 So Special?

In order to make this point, I will have to leave out several key factors that I am going to later discuss. When a company puts synthetic Vitamin E into their product, they do not ever have to clarify and claim that #ui Synthetic Vitamin E = #ui "DDATE" (dietary d-alpha-tocopherol equivalents).

Why is this not done for fat-soluble Vitamin C versus water-soluble Vitamin C?

What about different forms of minerals? Why do companies not get to claim to have a certain form of Magnesium and then clarify by having to put the true form? Magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide have different ratios and absorption rates and yet no clarification is needed when certain claims are made. According to one doctor, 500mg of magnesium oxide is the equivalent of about 350mg of magnesium citrate (Source).

  1. FDA Takes Labeling Seriously

Trans-fats were first brought up to be dangerous in the 1960s and it was only after over 20 years of research and evidence that the FDA decided to take a strong stance on trans-fats (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/when-trans-fats-were-healthy/281274/).

It was not until 2006 that the regulations changed in order to force companies to label trans-fats on their products (Source).

Please understand that my point on this is nothing other than the following: If it took almost 45 years of research and evidence to convince the FDA to require a change in the labeling of a compound that has long been agreed-upon to be unsafe, then where are the 45 years of documentation to support the addition of "DFE" on labels? Where are the 45 years of evidence that you, your family, and your neighbors will have improved health because of the addition of "DFE?" I am not asking a rhetorical question. I genuinely want to see the research.

Would you not agree that, if "DFE" was created for consumers, then finding easy-to-understand and relatable information on "DFE" should be very easy? If no consumers know about "DFE" then it is a completely futile concept. Sure, it is easy to find the relative bioavailability of the compounds (.6 and 1.7) but that in itself is a misleading concept. I have found many different studies regarding the relative bioavailability of folic acid and natural folate and I have found little evidence that supports .6 and 1.7 as being the definite numbers to trust. When I tried to look up the references regarding this provided by the former IOM, it led me back to the book in which I found the reference. Regardless, let us assume that those numbers are perfectly accurate. We are still left with the problem that most consumers do not know what "DFE" is.

I doubt that most consumers understand all the nuances of a phrase like, "bioavailability of folic acid relative to dietary folate." I doubt that most consumers understand that "DFE" is simply a concept that does the math which multiplies the number of mcg which then leads to a misleading daily value.

In my website (https://sternhealing.com), I compare the differences in ONE-A-DAY Men's versus ONE-A-DAY Women's. On those products, the Men's contains exactly 400mcg of folic acid. The Women's also contains exactly 400mcg of folic acid. The Men's label claims to have 100% of the daily value of Vitamin B9. The women's label claims to have 167% of the daily value of Vitamin B9. I hope you are able to explain this to me because according to the N.I.H., the daily recommendation of vitamin b9 for both men and women is 400mcg (Source).

 

It is as if the FDA has permitted salespersons to announce to consumers, "My product is of the highest quality and good for your heart!" and then, whispering very quietly so no one can hear except those who are making an effort to lean in and hear, "...is what I would say if my product actually contained what I say it contains :)."

Let me put it another way.

This is my perception of the concept of "DFE:" It is as though someone is selling two bags of apples. Both bags weigh 400g and both bags have green apples in them. While one bag is labeled accurately, the other bag says, "This bag has the equivalent of 600g of Red Delicious apples." In tiny font, it is clarified in a place no one typically thinks to look for clarification, it says, "(400g of green apples)." The average customer does not spend time reading every word on a product (as clarified in the paragraph to follow this one) and so they might only see, "Red Delicious apples." That customer might make a decision based on the labeling and NOT based on the actual ingredients inside the bag. In order to make my hypothetical scenario more accurate, I must add that unlike apples, Vitamin B9 cannot be clearly SEEN when opening a product; in other words, without good eyesight or reading glasses AND a knowledge that clarification may be necessary, the customer will never know what is in their product. The average customer will never know what they are taking. Not knowing whether we are consuming folic acid or Folate is extremely dangerous, as I will later discuss. At this time, I want to make the point that most consumers will not know what they are purchasing.

In an FDA document, the concept of bounded rationality is referred to as it relates to consumers making decisions about purchasing products. I believe this is a fantastic way to explain how the average consumer makes decisions. I also believe it supports the point that most consumers may NOT choose to purchase a product based on tiny words that serve to clarify a misleading claim (such as when the actual amount of folic acid is placed under the "DFE" amount).

In the FDA document, it is stated that "Individuals... ...often sacrifice judgment accuracy for the reduction in cognitive effort in systematic ways." (Source) The statement seems to kindly say that people are lazy when reading labels. While I am uncertain what "judgment accuracy" technical means, it seems to suggest that people are choosing products that, if they used more mental energy, they otherwise would not choose. I would take it a step further and suggest that even if people were to read a product's labels and ingredients in their entirety, it would not do much good.

When I talk about "DFE" to people who are knowledgeable about nutrition and supplements, I am met with glossy-eyed stares. I might as well start telling them about the type of wood that lines back side of my bathroom cabinets. I worked in the supplement industry and earned a degree on relevant topics and yet I did not learn anything about “DFE” until I independently studied it solely out of curiosity.

Dangers of Folic Acid

I believe I have exhausted the topic of "DFE" and I now want to move on to the dangers of misleading people into purchasing folic acid or even just allowing the sale of folic acid without a continuous effort to inform the public of its shortcomings. I found Dr. Ben Lynch. On his website, he lists over 4000 research articles and studies that scream out to readers that something needs to change... ...NOW (Source.)

I'll make this quick (and, to err on the side of caution, I will use conservative numbers): 10-15% of Caucasian Americans and 25% of Hispanic Americans have a gene mutation that makes it so that they cannot properly process folic acid (Source1 Source2).

The extremely serious dangers of low folic acid are outlined here in this N.I.H. factsheet: (Source).

I have come to the conclusion that the claim that the bioavailability of folic acid is 85-100% on that same factsheet (Source) is misleading because it is not coupled with a statement about how natural folate is better metabolized by the body and it is also not coupled with the fact that Natural Folate is the ONLY option for 10-15% of Caucasians and 25% of Hispanics in America (Source1Source2).

In my mind, it appears as though the FDA disagrees with the findings of its own Government regarding Folate and Folic Acid.


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