Chances are, you started your day with a whopping dose of folic acid, and unfortunately, that could increase your risk of cancer. Here are the facts according to MSNBC. Most breakfast cereals, breads and nutrition bars add folic acid to their products – which is the manmade form of the B vitamin, folate. For about a decade, the government has required folic acid to be added to white flour to protect fetuses from developing rare, but tragic birth defects, and it worked! Those rare birth defects dropped almost 20 percent! However, for adults, all that added folic acid is working in another way: Increasing the odds of cancer.

In Chile, cases of colon cancer in men and women over 45 more than doubled since folic acid was added to food ten years ago. The number of cases also went up in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, men who ate 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day in their food doubled their chance of prostate cancer. A healthy dose of folic acid is about 400 micrograms – that’s the amount that would protect a fetus. If you’re like most of us, you eat a few servings of cereal at a time – then wash it down with a vitamin fortified drink - and you’re getting a mega-dose before you walk out the door. So, how do you get around all the added folic acid? Dr. Karin Michels at the Harvard School of Public Health has these suggestions:

  • First, don’t worry about eating foods with natural folate – like lettuce, spinach, oranges, grapefruit, lentils and dried beans. All of them contain natural folate, and you can’t OD on it.
  • You should cut down on cereals, processed breads and anything with enriched flour. A study found 29 of the most popular cereal brands had three times as much folic acid than listed on the box! Go ahead and eat whole grain breads, pastas and flour. They aren’t required to be fortified.
  • Dr. Michels says rethink taking a multivitamin, which - combined with all the food with added folic acid - can put you way over 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day.