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What is Better- Folate or Folic Acid?

What is folate and why do we need it? Folate or vitamin B9 is found in many different foods. Some of the highest folate foods are beef liver, spinach, lentils and beans, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds and other leafy greens.

Folate has numerous beneficial roles in the human body. It helps in the production of DNA and RNA, aids in a process called methylation (which I will explain in just a moment), it helps to transform food into fuel producing energy, it partners with vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells and facilitate iron absorption in the body. In addition to all of that it also helps to reduce the production of homocysteine which is an inflammatory amino acid that damages the walls of our blood vessels. Folate also helps calm an overactive nervous system and supports brain, cardiovascular, reproductive health and function. Of all of these amazing benefits, the assistance folate provides in methylation is probably the most important because this biochemical process is involved in almost all of your body functions. There are literally hundreds of millions of these reactions occurring every second in your body! Without being too technical, methylation is the combining of a single carbon with three hydrogen atoms to form what is called a methyl group, which is then bound to a molecule. The unbinding of one of these molecules is called demethylation. Think of this binding and unbinding that occurs trillions of times every day in your body like little on-and-off switches, continuously regulating how everything works. Some of the things that methyl groups control are immune system response, repair of cells that are damaged by free radicals, brain neurotransmitters, repair of DNA, production and recycling of glutathione which is considered the body’s Master Antioxidant, our adrenal stress response, detoxification of chemicals, heavy metals and hormones, prevention of the inflammation response and cancer and even energy production. And that is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Can you see why it’s so important?

In 1998, the US food and drug administration began requiring that folic acid be added to enrich many different foods including rice, pasta, flour cereals, breads and other grain products. This move was in an effort to prevent what are called neural tube defects in newborns. Common forms of these defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. The defects actually occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, therefore by the time a woman becomes aware that she is pregnant it is often too late to add supplemental folic acid to her diet. Studies indicate that the occurrence of neural tube defects has declined as much is 32% since the implementation of folic acid enrichment in foods. While this has been of tremendous benefit in preventing a good number of these birth defects, it has had some unintended consequences for adults taking folic acid. You see, folic acid is created in a laboratory and it is the synthetic form of folate which is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, nearly half of the population have a genetic mutation or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). This genetic mutation has many undesirable effects in the body, one of them which are the inability to convert folic acid into the active form which is called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MHTF. Therefore, it is highly preferred to get folate from the diet versus folic acid. Some nutritional companies now are adding 5-MHTF rather than folic acid into their nutritional supplements. This greatly helps that nearly 50% of the population that cannot efficiently convert folic acid. According to the September 1, 2013 issue of the Journal of perinatal medicine, “supplementation of the natural form 5-MTHF, is a better alternative to supplementation of folic acid….”

To make matters worse, folic acid can bind to folate receptors, decreasing the body’s ability to absorb natural folate from food. This can also cause a buildup of folic acid in the system which has been linked to several different serious health conditions such as lung, prostate and colon cancers. According to David Smith PhD, Prof. emeritus of pharmacology at the University of Oxford, “there is a subgroup of people who may suffer harm from folic acid. For example, people with low vitamin B12 status and people who carry certain quite common genetic mutations. Furthermore, intake of high amount of folic acid in pregnancy may cause future harm to the child.” Dr. Smith and colleagues from Tufts University and the University of Oslo, have petitioned against fortifying mandates proposed in Europe. In a letter published in the British Medical Journal in 2016, they cite research showing that older people who took daily supplements or fortified foods containing more than 400 micrograms of folic acid suffered significant cognitive decline compared with those who did not. “Other unintended consequences of synthetic folic acid include, mental sluggishness, heart palpitations, feeling faint, irritability, fatigue, poor digestion, impaired immune system and can mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency…” The take-away from all of this. Once man begins to alter what nature created perfectly, there is always a price to pay. Get your folate from natural sources whenever possible. When you must supplement, look for 5-MTHF.

The Scoop on Nuts

Variety is the name of the game

Introduction

When you look at a nutrient profile of nuts, you can readily see a wide variation in the amounts and contents of different nutrients. It definitely gives you the impression that nuts are designed to be alternated in the diet to gain from the full array of benefits. Nuts are a good source of minerals. They also contain fats. Some nuts contain a much higher ratio of omega 6 oils which tend to be pro inflammatory. Other nuts contain a higher ratio of omega-3 oils which are more anti-inflammatory.

Mix it up

Some examples of the wide variation of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids found in nuts are as follows:

Almonds- Highest in Calcium, Riboflavin (Vit B2) and Vitamin E (Alpha and Beta Tocopherol). Unfortunately however, almonds have the worst Omega 3 to 6 ratio of 2,028:1

Walnuts- Have the best Omega  3 to 6 ratio of 4:1 and very high in Gamma and Alpha Tocopherol

Pecans- Highest in Vitamin E (Gamma Tocopherol) and Beta Cryptoxanthin

Hazelnuts- Highest in Vit C, Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Brazil Nuts– Highest in Magnesium and Selenium

Pistachios- Highest in Potassium, Vit A and very high in Gamma Tocopherol

Macadamias- Highest in Monounsaturated fat, and Thiamine (Vit B1)

Pine Nuts- Highest in Vit K

Peanuts (not actually a nut, but a legume)- Highest in Folate

 

The bottom line is that nuts, just like vegetables, berries, fruit, meats and seeds all have different profiles of vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids and fats. All foods found in nature are designed to be eaten in variety. That gives a person the broadest spectrum of nutrients to cover all of a person’s health care bases. It also prevents the body’s immune system from developing a sensitivity reaction to the proteins in the food from having that food in the diet too repetitively. A good game plan is to eat a handful of a different type of nut every day. My daily “treat” is to eat a handful of nuts with a small piece of dark chocolate. YUM!

What does YOUR homocysteine level say about your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

This study, conducted at the Boston University School of Medicine, drew 1,092 participants from the landmark Framingham Heart study group. All of the participants had been assessed eight years earlier, during one of the regular Framingham Heart Study follow-up visits. At that time, all were determined to be free of dementia, and all had their homocysteine levels measured.

The researchers then assessed the group’s current status, both in terms of mental state and homocysteine levels. A committee of neurologists and neuropsychologists examined each participant; 111 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. And when they compared prior and current homocysteine levels against those diagnoses, they came up with some very useful data.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that can be measured in a simple blood test. Most doctors consider a level of 12 micromoles per liter or less to be “normal.” In this study, the researchers found that for every five micromoles per liter increase in homocysteine levels, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increased 40 percent. When homocysteine levels climbed in the highest quartile (greater than 14 micromoles per liter), the risk of developing AD or some other form of dementia DOUBLED.

The strongest association was found in participants who had high homocysteine levels at the earliest reading – a full eight years before dementia or AD was diagnosed – AND in the current reading as well. As the authors comment, “[these findings] …suggest that the elevation in the homocysteine level preceded the onset of dementia.” So keeping your homocysteine levels in check now may protect you from developing Alzheimer’s in the future.

What can you do NOW to lower your homocysteine level and decrease your risk of AD?

Homocysteine is considered one of the most important markers for cardiovascular disease – and more and more research is linking it with other diseases as well, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and, as this study supports, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

You can lower your homocysteine level – through supplementation with B6, B12 and folic acid. We have a wonderful product specifically formulated to lower homocysteine levels.

 

If you haven’t already, have your homocysteine levels checked NOW. If you find that your level is high, take steps immediately to correct it. We’ve known for awhile that it was a great step to protect your heart – now we know it’s a great way to protect your mind, as well.

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