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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Worried About Processed Foods? Read This

By Michael McBurney

Problem: Health advisors think processed foods lack nutrition. Consequence: People feel guilty about purchasing and enjoying nutrient-rich foods. Reality: Commercial processing can improve the nutritional content of foods by better nutrient preservation (flash frozen vegetables) and fortification (vitamin D addition to dairy products, iodization of salt, folate fortification of flour). Evidence: CDC nutritional status survey.

In the most comprehensive analysis of the folate status of the US population to date, fortified foods and/or dietary supplements are primary contributors to serum total folate status. As the authors write, “Not surprisingly, we found significantly higher serum folate forms as well as serum and red blood cell (RBC) total folate concentrations in persons who reported consuming folic acid-containing dietary supplements during the last 24h.”

When choosing grain-based foods, it is important to look for folic-fortified products. Whole grain foods are not fortified. One outcome of eating more whole grain foods is the realization that people are replacing/substituting grain-based products made with flours that are fortified. In countries with mandatory folic acid fortification of flour, eg. USA and Canada, processed grains, but not whole grains, are important contributors to total folate intake.

Because socio-economic status (SES) affect food choices, it is important to address misperceptions with respect to the nutritional quality of food groups.  

It is NEVER in the best interests of anyone, even older men and women, to have >25% of the age group underconsuming folate, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.

For more scientific readers, Pfeiffer and colleagues report fasting time affects serum folate concentrations but not RBC total folate concentrations. Thus RBC total folate concentrations are a better indicator of long-term status. In addition, they measured all folate forms: 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, unmetabolized folic acid (UMFA), non-methyl folate [sum of tetrahyrofolate (THF), 5-formyltetrahydrofolate, and 5,10-methenyl-THF] and the 5-methylTHF oxidation product (MeFox). Distinct patterns were observed in MeFox and total serum folate concentrations. Since microbiological assays do not measure MeFox, the authors recommend reporting MeFox independent from total folate.

Main Citation

Pfeiffer CM, Sternberg MR, Fazili Z, Lacher DA, Zhang M, Johnson CL, Hamner HC, Bailey RL, Rader JI, Yamini S, Berry RJ, Yetley EA. Folate status and concentrations of serum folate forms in the US population : National Health and Examination Survey 2011-12. 2015 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114515001142

Other Citations

Mann KD, Pearce MS, McKevith B, Thielecke F, Seal CJ. Low whole grain intake in the UK: results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme 2008-11. 2015 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000422

Kell KP, Judd SE, Pearson KE, Shikany JM, Fernandez JR. Associations between socio-economic status and dietary patterns in US black and white adults. 2015 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000938

ter Borg S, Verlaan S, Hemsworth J, Mijnarends DM, Schols JMGA, Luiking YC, de Groot LCPGM. Micronutrient intakes and potential inadequacies of community-dwelling older adults: a systematic review. 2015 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000203