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There’s poison in the pot — folic acid fortification

Right About Now

Posted: July 4, 2008 12:26 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2008 5:03 a.m.
I got an urgent call from my Uncle Earl the other day. He wanted me to come over immediately. Earl is the relative that every family fears at gatherings - loud, opinionated and eats all of the guacamole. Then, he polishes off all of the onion dip. But, as coarse as Earl can be, he is often right and worth listening to. So, my curiosity piqued, I went over and saw Earl.

Me: So, what's up?

Earl: Can you believe this? They are putting chemicals in our bread! Did anyone ask us before they did this? Who do they think they are? Folic acid? Sounds like this stuff is going to eat straight through our guts. I'll bet the Dem-o-crats are behind it!

Me: Whoa, slow down Earl. Folic acid is actually one of the B vitamins, B-9 to be exact. Scientists discovered many years ago that many birth problems called neural tube defects are caused when women of child bearing age do not get enough folic acid in their diet. When they become pregnant, the child does not develop correctly in the womb and is born with terrible defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

Earl: So, what does that have to do with my bread?

Me: Back in 1996 during the Clinton Administration, the FDA published regulations for putting folic acid into all of the flour, cereals, enriched breads, corn meals, pastas, rice and other grain products. While still a senator, Bill Richardson (later Clinton's Secretary of Energy) helped force the FDA to craft these rules that took effect in 1998. So, for the past 10 years, we have been eating folic-acid-fortified foods, courtesy of Bill Clinton.

Earl: So, the government has told us what is good for us and just went ahead with it? I suppose that's good if we've saved babies.

Me: Well, yes and no. Since fortification started, FDA statistics have shown that neural tube defects have gone down from approximately 4,000 per year to 3,000. This is a 25 percent reduction in the total, which is very good. But, the numbers also show us that folic acid deficiency is not the only driving factor in neural tube defects. If it were, then the number would be zero.

Earl: I don't get it. Where is the down side?

Me: Think about it, Earl. Now everyone gets excess folic acid in their diet whether they want it or not. Women beyond child-bearing age, men and children do not need extra folic acid. But, they are forced to eat it. Think about athletes that consume large amounts of food. My kid plays football, and he eats roughly double what I do. Does a 13-year-old need that much folic acid? No, he doesn't.

Earl: Why, that's not right! That's the ultimate in nanny-state mentality!!!

Me: Exactly. In fact, Richardson was quoted as saying "we don't assume that the American people can make rationale decisions" (Miller, Raw Story). The truly scary part is that new evidence is coming to light that eliminating the 1,000 neural tube defects may be costing us far more. A CBS news report from June 2007 gave the results of a clinical study that showed the number of intestinal polyps had increased in individuals taking higher doses of folic acid. Some studies have further shown that folic acid promotes tumor initiation. Also, researchers are discussing in hushed tones that folic may encourage tumor growth in individuals that already have cancer.

Earl: Why would they talk in hushed tones? This is America! Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!

Me: In science, to be the first to voice a new theory or one that is contrary to popular thought might result in ridicule and ostracism. Unfortunately, there was an easy solution available to the Democrats, but they chose not to pursue it. If we had simply given all women of child-bearing age folic acid supplements, we could have avoided giving the entire population large doses of folic acid.

Earl: Why wasn't this done? Any bonehead could see that this is a better way to go!

Me: It's hard to say why this happened. Some would say it was the arrogance of the Democrats and the Clintons, in conjunction with a few in the scientific community, who thought they knew what was best for all of us. Others would note that China was a major producer of folic acid and the massive amount of folic acid needed for spiking into food materials would greatly benefit them. Add to that the well-documented connection between Bill Clinton and the Chinese and, well, you decide.

Earl: Was the United States alone?

Me: Unfortunately, no. Almost every country in the Americas now fortifies its foods with folic as well as many in the rest of the world. To date, no EU country has mandated folic acid fortification but it seems only to be a matter of time. I have heard some scientists call this the "great experiment."

Earl: I call it something else. What about "how do you like being a lab rat?" courtesy of Bill Clinton and the Democrats.

Me: Now you've got it, Earl.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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