Need Folate? There’s a Pill for That.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Deplin, a “medical food,” helps patients taking antidepressants get more out of their medications. The article explained that Deplin is a prescription form of a natural B-vitamin folate, one of the miraculous phytochemicals found in leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts and fruits.

Alarms immediately started going off in my brain when I read “folate,” because I had just that day finished reading a section in Joel Furhman’s book Super Immunity on the dangers of taking folic acid, a synthetic form of folate. In the book Dr. Fuhrman warns of the risks of trying to buy our health through medications rather than earning it through diet and exercise, and he recalls his first pharmacology lecture from med school:

“Make no doubt about it; all drugs are toxic and can even hasten one’s death. They should be used only after careful consideration of the risk-to-benefit ratio, because they all have considerable and serious risks.”

Dr. Joel Fuhrman presents a compelling case (citing sources including the British Medical Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute) that another synthesized form of folate, folic acid, can substantially increase cancer risk and even death. And yet, despite these risks, the majority of doctors in America continue to tell pregnant women to take folic acid for the health of their babies. Why do they not instead tell women to eat more asparagus (402 mg folate/ 1.5 cup cooked), lentils (358 mg/ cup), and broccoli (337 mg/ 2 cups) to ensure adequate folate?

As of yet there are no known side effects of Deplin, but I think it’s fair to assume that just as we’ve learned years after the fact about the risks from taking folic acid, we might one day learn of similar deadly risks from Deplin. Why do we take such risks?

Good health must be earned. In the era of iPhones and Androids we’re all looking for “an app for that,” but health is not so simple. It’s time for us to stop turning first and foremost to “a drug for that.” Imagine the cost savings, both financially and physically, if we put down the medications and instead picked up a stalk of asparagus.

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6 comments

  1. Holly Hansen says:

    Tracy,

    First of all, your blog title rocks! Your story is an incredible one. I have a friend who is battling pancreatic cancer right now and your story gives me hope.

    I work with Deplin, the medical food you speak about in your article. I just wanted to let you know that Deplin does not contain folic acid. Up to 50% of the population has a genetic mutation called the MTHFR polymorphism. These people have a limited ability to metabolize synthetic folic acid (the type found in enriched foods as well as most ordinary supplements). These people are therefore at risk for folate deficiency. Deplin contains L-methylfolate, the active, natural, already broken-down form of folate which bypasses the MTHFR polymorphism. L-methylfolate is the only form of folate that can cross the blood brain barrier. Up to 70% of patients with depression have the MTHFR polymorphism. Active L-methylfolate balances the chemical messengers that affect mood and can make a huge difference for people suffering from depression with no known side effects. I just wanted to clarify the difference between folic acid and L-methylfolate.

    Your blog is awesome and you are an inspiration!

    Holly

  2. Tracy Krulik says:

    Hi Holly,

    Thanks for your kind words and for the information. I’m glad you like the blog title. It’s the name of my book. 🙂

    Are people with the MTHFR polymorphism unable to metabolize folate in its natural form from plants? You mention that they can’t metabolize synthetic forms. What I’m trying to figure out is why would someone need to take Deplin if they can get their much needed folate dose from plant-based foods. Is there an advantage other than convenience?

    Please send along my hopes for a full recovery to your friend battling cancer.

    Best wishes,

    Tracy

  3. Holly Hansen says:

    Tracy,

    I absolutely agree with you that, ideally, we should aim to get the nutrients we need from a balanced diet. Folate is found naturally in foods such as spinach, cabbage, kale, broccoli sprouts, legumes, nuts and organ meats. But even when the body is operating at full efficiency, only about 50% of ingested food folate can be absorbed compared to 100% bioavailaility for active L-methylfolate. In addition, food preparation and processing can destroy up to 100% of naturally occurring folate, as it is sensitive to light, air and especially, heat. It would be impossible to get the amount of active folate found in Deplin from food sources.

  4. Brian says:

    I just started taking Deplin about 6 days ago. I definitely notice a small difference already. I found your information about the foods from which the body derives folate to be insightful. I’m like a three year old when it comes to veggies (well at least the green ones) so its no wonder that I might be low on Folate!

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