Conventional prenatal vitamins may do more harm than good

It is imperative for me to make women aware that they may be endangering their health and the health of their unborn children by using conventional supplements.

Nearly all multivitamins and prenatal vitamins contain folic acid.

Unlike most physicians, I do not recommend folic acid supplementation for pregnant women.  Folic acid supplementation can damage the health of women and their children.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a member of the family of B vitamins that is involved in regulating DNA synthesis and gene expression. Because of these crucial functions, folate plays an important role in fetal development - folate is essential during pregnancy, especially early on in pregnancy, for the prevention of neural tube defects. Folate is abundant in green vegetables like spinach, collards, bok choy, artichokes, and broccoli.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is so nutritionally inadequate that the U.S. government and most physicians encourage women to take folic acid supplements, assuming that they do not eat green vegetables and are folate deficient.

Taking synthetic folic acid is not the same as getting natural folate from vegetables.

Scientific studies have revealed the dangers to women and their children involved in taking folic acid supplements:

  • Women who followed the typical recommendations to take folic acid during pregnancy and were followed by researchers for thirty years were twice as likely to die from breast cancer.1   Another study following women for ten years concluded that those who took multivitamins containing folic acid increased their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.2   Folic acid in supplement form may contribute to producing a cancer-promoting environment in the body – in addition to breast cancer, synthetic folic acid has been linked to dramatic increases in prostate and colorectal cancers, as well as overall cancer incidence.3
  • Folic acid supplementation by pregnant women has been associated with incidence of childhood asthma, infant respiratory tract infections, and cardiac birth defects.4

However, food folate is associated with benefits for both women and children:

  • Women with lower levels of food folate intake are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.5
  • The children of women who consumed more food folate during pregnancy were less likely to develop ADHD.6
  • Several studies have made connections between vegetable intake during pregnancy and lower risks of childhood cancers.7

This is too important an issue to ignore, and women are simply not told the facts here.

I needed to take action and supply a prenatal and other supplements that did not contain folic acid as well as other supplemental ingredients with documented risk. 

 My Gentle Prenatal contains the same carefully designed combination of vitamins and minerals present in my original multivitamin and mineral, Gentle Care Formula, but has been uniquely tailored to the needs of child-bearing and pregnant women. 

Read more about my Gentle Prenatal





 [1] Charles D et al. Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer. BMJ 2004;329:1375-6

[2] Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ et al. Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):895-904.

[3] Fife, J et al. Folic Acid Supplementation and Colorectal Cancer Risk; A Meta-analysis. Colorectal Dis. 2009 Oct 27. [Epub ahead of print]

Hirsch S et al. Colon cancer in Chile before and after the start of the flour fortification program with folic acid. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Apr;21(4):436-9.

Figueiredo JC et al. Folic acid and risk of prostate cancer: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Mar 18;101(6):432-5. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

Ebbing M et al. Cancer Incidence and Mortality After Treatment With Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. JAMA. 2009;302(19):2119-2126

[4]   Whitrow MJ. Effect of Supplemental Folic Acid in Pregnancy on Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print]

Haberg SE, London SJ, Stigum H, Nafstad P, Nystad W. Folic acid supplements in pregnancy and early childhood respiratory health. Arch Dis Child. 2009 Mar;94(3):180-4. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Källén B. Congenital malformations in infants whose mothers reported the use of folic acid in early pregnancy in Sweden. A prospective population study. Congenit Anom (Kyoto). 2007 Dec;47(4):119-24.

[5] Sellers TA et al. Dietary folate intake, alcohol, and risk of breast cancer in a prospective study of postmenopausal women. Epidemiology. 2001 Jul;12(4):420-8.

Kim YI. Does a high folate intake increase the risk of breast cancer? Nutr Rev. 2006 Oct;64(10 Pt 1):468-75.

[6] Wiley-Blackwell (2009, October 28). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Problems Associated With Low Folate Levels In Pregnant Women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from /releases/2009/10/091028134631.htm

[7] Kwan ML et al. Maternal diet and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Public Health Rep. 2009 Jul-Aug;124(4):503-14.

Tower RL et al. The epidemiology of childhood leukemia with a focus on birth weight and diet. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2007;44(3):203-42.

Petridou E et al. Maternal diet and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in young children.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1935-9.

Jensen CD et al. Maternal dietary risk factors in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (United States).Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Aug;15(6):559-70.

Huncharek M et al. A meta-analysis of maternal cured meat consumption during pregnancy and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Neuroepidemiology. 2004 Jan-Apr;23(1-2):78-84.




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Comments (9) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Boop - March 3, 2010 4:35 PM

I am so happy you made these vitamins. I can't wait to order them. Thanks so much!

Jessika Bailey - March 3, 2010 4:43 PM

I wonder if they researched if the risks had any association to the mother NOT breastfeeding...therefore the risks to the child being formula fed....and the risk of breast cancer in the mother. I bet there is more of a risk with that than folic acid supplementation. Did they even think about this? Because there is an uncanny similarity with formula feeding.

Rich - March 3, 2010 9:38 PM

My wife is expecting right now (three months in) and she is taking a sublingual B12 supplement because we are WFP (whole foods plant-based) vegans.

Here is one of the kinds we've purchased:
B12 1,000 mcg
B6 25 mg
Folic Acid 400 mcg

Another kind is:
Vitamin C 50 mg
Folic Acid 400 mcg
B12 3,000 mcg

Is there a sublingual B12 out there without folic acid or other vitamins in it?

Also is the 400 mcg level dangerous for folic acid?

I should note that ever since she got pregnant for some reason now she has been very sick and our usual daily dose of green foods is mostly unappetizing to her. Still eats a little broccoli but our usual kale, collards, and swiss chard is out of the question with her pregnancy changing her tastes and making her sick all the time.

shles - March 4, 2010 12:45 AM

This is not related to the post, but I am steaming blown away and just had to school has started a "Healthy Kid" campaign and the children are receiving nutrition courses every week. Guess who sponsors this thing? The National Dairy Association, I was sick when I saw that. As I looked through the literature, of course, it stated the importance of drinking milk (or consuming dairy-cheese) not once, but mulitple times per day! I was very upset, no wonder people have no idea what good nutrtion is, the brainwashing starts from early on. Sorry to vent, but I am just so frustrated having to watch these "experts" come teach the kids. Just when I thought we were moving forward I saw this program being pushed at the school!!! I want to give my own lecture series, imagine the politics that would involve at a public school.

Deana Ferreri - March 4, 2010 10:51 AM

There are two breast cancer studies cited in this post (references 1 and 2) - one found increased risk at 200 mcg or more, and the second found increased risk at 400 mcg or more.

Take a look at this post - some similar issues about taste were brought up in the comments.

Rich - March 5, 2010 12:23 PM

Thanks Deana!

noosh. - March 6, 2010 10:38 AM

i'm wondering about the vegetable choices listed for folate consumption- i read that eating too much spinach during pregnancy can lead to other vitamins and minerals not being absorbed, such as calcium. any thoughts?

Abby Baird - March 11, 2010 12:44 PM

Thanks so much for this! I just finished the 6 week plan and lost 20 lbs, 5 inches off my hips, and 5.5 inches off my waist. I'm 25 and starting to think about having children with my husband and I have been worried about supplements. I have a friend with spina bifida and they always said it occurred because her mom had not taken enough folic acid before and during her pregnancy. I had seen the articles you've posted about the dangers of taking folic acid, however my dr. told me I can't take enough of it.

I've still been a little hesitant about taking out folic acid supplements, even though I'm following your eating plan. But I'm so glad you made a supplement that will make it easier for me to get what I need. Thanks!

s.michelle - March 13, 2010 5:01 PM

Upon the suggestion of my doctor, I started taking prenatal vitamins about seven months ago. In November, a few weeks before my 40th birthday, I discovered a breast lump. I had it biopsied and discovered that it was a benign (fibroadenoma) tumor. There is no history of breast cancer or benign breast tumors in my family. Of course, I realize that one can still develop these things in spite of that. I started researching information on the web and discovered Dr. Fuhrman’s website where I read about the dangers of folic acid. I had never heard any negatives regarding it, only how healthy it was to consume through a vitamin supplement. I have also recently read on Wikipedia that “A 2007 randomized clinical trial found that folate supplements did not reduce the risk of colorectal adenomas, but do in fact increase the presence of advanced lesions and adenoma multiplicity.” I can not help but wonder if this is also true with regards to breast adenomas. I wish I had known this sooner. I stopped taking my prenatal vitamin about four months ago and fortunately my fibroadenoma has not grown. I am hoping that with exercise, flaxseed and a healthy diet, I will either be able to prevent its growth or that it may fall within the small percentage that go away on their own.

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