Folic acid's trade-offs of concern
By Stephanie Desmon | Sun reporter
January 27, 2008
It was all about the babies. A decade ago, when the U.S. required flour, bread and pasta to be fortified with folic acid, health experts believed it would help prevent devastating birth defects such as spina bifida.
There's no question that it worked. As many as 1,000 newborns a year in the United States - and many more elsewhere - have been spared so-called neural tube defects because their mothers got a crucial infusion of folic acid before they even knew they were pregnant.
But now some scientists are asking whether there have been unforeseen trade-offs for the population as a whole - including thousands of additional colon cancer cases each year, a somewhat smaller bump-up in prostate cancer, and an increase in cognitive impairment among the elderly.