Korean study highlights benefits of natural vs. synthetic nutrients

By ANH Team

Findings by Korean researchers, epublished ahead of print in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have shown that there is a 'statistically significant relationship between higher dietary folate intake and reduced risk of CRC (colorectal cancer), colon cancer and rectal cancer in women'.

The hospital based, case control study looked at men and women, aged 30-79 years. There were a total of 1105 subjects of which 509 were controls. Of interest was that the very positive findings were evident amongst the women rather than the men.

This study highlights, once again, that natural folates, abundant in green, leafy vegetables, asparagus and lentils, have more benefits and less risk than synthetic folic acid. Whilst there is little doubt as to the benefits of supplemental folic acid for reducing the risk of birth defects, when given to pregnant women, and those planning pregnancy; there are doubts as to the wisdom of giving higher doses of the synthetic vitamin to the older population, who may already have developed precancerous lesions in the gut. These doubts have increased lately due to evidence of a time-based association in both Chile and the US, between synthetic folic acid fortification of grain and additional risk of colon cancer.

These latter findings may have implications regarding further mandatory folic acid fortification programs, and indeed they should, since this could be regarded as mass medication, where there should be informed consent and freedom of choice.

We discuss the consistent benefits of natural folates, and the contradictory results that have been obtained with synthetic folic acid in our earlier news item on folic acid entitled: "Another question mark over mandatory food fortification with synthetic folic acid"

Meanwhile, a review article by Joel Mason of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University was published in the April edition of Nutrition Reviews. In the abstract, Mason writes:

'Evidence indicates that an abundant intake of foodstuffs rich in folate conveys protection against the development of colorectal cancer, and perhaps some other common cancers as well. The issue is a complex one however, since some observations in animal and human studies demonstrate that an overly abundant intake of folate among those who harbor existing foci of neoplasia might instead produce a paradoxical promotion of tumorigenesis. The pharmaceutical form of the vitamin, folic acid, might affect the process in a manner that is distinct from natural forms of the vitamin, although this remains a speculative concept. Our limited understanding of this complex relationship is unfortunately impeding efforts to move ahead with widespread folic acid fortification, but this may be necessary to ensure that such programs are instituted in a safe manner.'

It seems there are many who know that natural and synthetic forms of vitamins may be very different. Again and again, negative findings from studies using synthetic supplement forms are published along with scare stories in the media, and the anti-vitamin brigade repeat the same old story that vitamin supplements are bad for us, without bothering to mention what forms are being used.   


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