Dr. Fuhrman warns: DO NOT take multivitamins or prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid

Folic acid supplementation is dangerous – especially for pregnant women

In a 10-year study,1,2 scientists found that women who take multivitamins containing folic acid increase their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.

Even more alarming are the associations between supplemental folic acid during pregnancy and death from breast cancer,8 and asthma and respiratory tract infections in children.5-6

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Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin, which is abundant in green vegetables. Folate protects against birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Pregnant women could safely increase their folate status and prevent NTDs by eating green vegetables, but instead they are instructed to take folic acid supplements, putting them and their children at risk. Folic acid supplements are not a substitute for folate-containing green vegetables – there are inverse associations between maternal vegetable intake and childhood cancers.12-13

Unlike synthetic folic acid, folate obtained from food sources – especially green vegetables – protects against breast and prostate cancer.

There is inverse relationship between dietary folate intake and breast and prostate cancer.14,3 Chemical differences between folate and folic acid translate into differences in uptake and processing of these two substances by the cells in the intestinal wall – excess folic acid in the circulation can occur. Luckily, folate from food comes naturally packaged in balance with other micronutrients and the body regulates its absorption.9

Rich sources of food folate

As a reference point, the U.S. RDA for folate is 400μg. Below is the approximate folate content for a 100-calorie serving.8

Spinach, raw

843 μg

Romaine lettuce

800 μg

Asparagus, cooked

750 μg

Mustard greens, raw

700 μg

Collards, raw

550 μg

Broccoli, cooked

300 μg


225 μg


150 μg


90 μg


70 μg


55 μg


50 μg

Sunflower seeds

40 μg

Quinoa, cooked

35 μg

Additional foods listed in full article

Clearly, we do not need synthetic folic acid supplements to meet our daily folate requirements.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Care Formula Multivitamin does not contain folic acid

Supplemental folic acid has also been linked to prostate cancer3, colorectal cancer4, and overall cancer mortality.7 Because folate is abundant in the nutritarian diet, and synthetic folic acid is so potentially dangerous, folic acid is not included in Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Care multivitamin.

Dr. Fuhrman does not recommend prenatal vitamins because of the potentially harmful ingredients, such as folic acid.

Dr. Fuhrman’s special recommendations for pregnant women:

(See full article for references)


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Comments (26) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jennifer - December 2, 2009 11:16 AM

I am six weeks pregnant and of course taking supplemental folic acid. I do eat my greens and beans like I should. You have given me a lot to think about Dr F. Thank you and thank you for your references!!

Greg - December 2, 2009 5:45 PM

This sounds perfect on paper, but what do you recommend pregnant women with moderate to severe morning sickness do? Nine or Ten of those foods will cause vomiting, nausea and, other strongly negative responses from women who suffer from pregnancy related nausea.

Suz Stapler - December 2, 2009 5:49 PM

This vitamin may not have folic acid in there but it has the weaker form of vitamin D in it. It should have D3 and D2 in it.

Andrea - December 2, 2009 11:10 PM

Hey, I enjoy reading about your diet recommendations for pregnant women, and I do have a question- I have searched your blog and website and haven't found anything on "morning sickness". I did notice a short blurp on in it in "Onlyourhealth your child" but before trying to get pregnant with my second child, is there anything you could recommend in terms of a diet or a fast that might help lessen the morning sickness the second time around?? is it due to diet or hormones??? thanks for any help you can offer, I am a big fan and avid reader of yours ~ Andrea

Boop - December 3, 2009 10:29 AM

Great article, thanks Dr. Fuhrman. I had no idea that I was eating so much folate until I saw this list. I had decided anyway to stop the prenatal vitamins once I finished the pack I have (tomorrow) and I know feel much safer doing so. I have your gentle care formula ready to go.

Deana Ferreri - December 3, 2009 10:43 AM

Greg -
I'd take nausea over breast cancer any day. I'm sure with trial and error, a woman could find which folate-rich foods (and when, how much, and prepared which way) work for her.

Suz -
Yes, Gentle Care has Vitamin D2. D3 was purposely left out so that the vitamins would be vegan. Dr. Fuhrman offers additional Vitamin D supplements (Osteo-Sun) in both D2 and D3 forms. Also, either D2 or D3 will be effective in raising blood Vitamin D levels - there is no need to have both.

Greg - December 3, 2009 12:24 PM


It's not a question of willpower, she is (as are many pregnant women) simply unable to eat (or keep down) many of her formerly favorite foods. Obviously vomiting is not healthy, and most books on the subject simply say to avoid foods that make you sick until the symptoms subside.

Deana Ferreri - December 3, 2009 3:05 PM

Greg, I didn't mean to say that it was willpower - just that there is a long list of folate rich foods, and she could probably find one or two that she could hold down.

Sandra - December 3, 2009 4:03 PM

i was sick when i was pregnant and had an aversion to the greens, but luckily i was eating alot of greens before getting pregnant so my blood levels for folate were still high. i tried to eat more of the tender greens and stayed away from the bitter ones. i continued to juice vegetables when i was pregnant bc that didn't seem to bother me.

Kara - December 4, 2009 1:35 PM

I am not pregnant, however, my doctor recommends I take an otc prenatal vitamin since my husband and I plan on having children in the near future. I know that I get plenty of folate in my diet, so I am ignoring this advice.

My doctor also mentioned that she will put me on a prescription vitamin when I get pregnant. How should I respond to this when that time comes? Find another Dr.? :)

Manda - December 4, 2009 9:54 PM

Whew, thank goodness I was unable to keep those vitamins down when I was pregnant. I felt bad for not taking them more than a couple of times, but not now.
For myself, I had morning-noon-and-night sickness, and it was hard to keep much down. But of all the nausea-inducing things I can think of, prenatal vitamins top the list - so I'm not thinking they are the answer to prenatal nutrition.
During pregnancy, a very refreshing way to get in some greens would be a fruity green smoothie. Frozen fruit, some juice or almond milk, and a generous portion of fresh spinach leaves whirred up in a blender gets folate in a cool, sweet, hydrating meal.

I do want to point out, though, that folate intake is very important *before* pregnancy. Good folic acid levels at the time of conception can be preventative, also. Many OB/GYNs and even family docs are pushing all women of child-bearing age to take a folic acid supplement. I actually watched a discussion on this very topic during a CE video a bit ago. I was shocked to see no mention of improving the diets of women of child-bearing age. Rather than popping a pill, a better answer would be to increase the foods mentioned above. In addition to the folic acid, you'll also get a healthy dose of phytonutrients that will create health in a multitude of ways.

Manda - December 4, 2009 10:01 PM

Kara ~ simply because a doc prescribes something does not mean you must take it. If you have done your homework and feel the prescription offered will not be more helpful than hurtful, you are fully within your rights to respectfully decline. It may be an excellent teachable moment for your physician, and you can refer her to the studies Dr. F has mentioned here. She is most likely unfamiliar with them, and it would be great for you to offer the information in a friendly way.

In regards to prenatal and birth care, I don't think it's easy to find a practitioner with whom we agree in every way, so it's important to choose your battles. I highly recommend that you read The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. Lots of great info that can give you resources for choosing (or keeping) the practitioner that is right for you.

Beth - December 5, 2009 4:34 PM

I had the nausea thing with ANY green vegetables. I didn't take folate on the days I could get down a green juice with kale or anything high in folate. Most days, that was nonexistent. I read this, I believe this, I get it. But, it seems like supplemental folate causes harm if one is actually eating folate-rich foods, which I can assure you, I was not. On that list, I would have eaten papaya or avocado, and nothing else (but not enough of those, either).

Prior to finding out this recommendation, I did take folic acid. And, I'm hopeful that my good diet at other times will make up for the fact that I sometimes was supplementing with something dangerous.

Also, how about a vitamin that is food-based? Is that source of folate more akin to that found in food?

Kara - December 7, 2009 11:46 AM

Manda - Thanks for the advice! This is very helpful.

Dr. Fuhrman - December 8, 2009 10:29 AM

Women don’t have to be so crazed about getting folate during pregnancy that they will feel they need to drink green drinks if they can’t eat much for a weeks. The body’s levels of folate and other nutrients will be more than adequate if eating properly prior to pregnancy (even if you did not eat anything for weeks). We should be eating healthfully all the time, not just when we are pregnant. The point about morning sickness is that if you are eating healthier before getting pregnant, then your “detox” experience of morning sickness will be mild or non-existent. The best way to resolve and lessen the discomfort of morning sickness is to eat sparingly from clean, natural organic foods and stay away from all processed foods.

Beth - December 8, 2009 4:19 PM

I was eating healthy before getting pregnant. No sugar, no gluten, very little in the way of animal products, and lots of vegetables. I still had serious indigestion and nausea upon getting pregnant, worse this time than when I had a much more junky diet with #1 and #2. Perhaps age has something to do with it as well? I don't know.

Again, I'll just have to hope that the folate I took doesn't ruin my overall health in the future! I appreciate the information, here, and will pass it on to others.

Elle - December 25, 2009 12:39 PM

Just playing devil's advocate here, but if you have such severe morning sickness that you're vomiting frequently then would you even be absorbing much (or any) of the prenatal vitamin/folic acid supplement anyway? And if you're not eat much because of the nausea, could that affect the absorption of the folic acid supplements? It would seem pretty useless (and a waste of money) to take it if that's the case.

Kate - December 30, 2009 9:49 AM

I was wondering about food-sourced/based vitamin supplements? I am taking one of these with folic acid currently (my diet has been, admittedly, not the best with the holidays--back to "6 weeks" for me!), as it was the only one I could find without Vitamin A in my area (sorry Dr. F, I couldn't afford yours at the time)...is this better, as it is not "created" folic acid?


Jennifer - January 3, 2010 2:12 PM

I am not pregnant (and not trying to get pregnant) and I think I get more than enough folate in my diet. I do not want to consume folic acid in fortified foods or supplements. My problem is that I love nutritional yeast (use it on salads almost every day) and I can't find a brand that is not fortified with folic acid. Does anyone know of a brand that does NOT have added folic acid?

Julie - January 15, 2010 4:01 AM

38 yr old, stage 3 triple negative breast cancer patient -- I had a baby 19 months ago. If I knew then what I know now I would have taken puking every day, many times a day (from eating folic in greens vs vitamins) over increasing my risk of getting or helping this disease advance in my body.

I've learned so much since my diagnosis -- wish I'd known it earlier but now that I know, my life has changed completely and for the better. Nutrition and exercise are not optional when it comes to health.

k - February 6, 2010 2:00 PM

This is a very stupid and risky recommendation considering that many pts may also take a H2 antagonist/proton pump inhibitor or have decreased HCL acid in the stomach (common in elderly) which may decrease folic acid & vitamin absorption in the gut. In addition, hormones (birth control pills), and stress will reduce b6 and folic acid. A Biochemistry professor said that with the exception of vitamins A,D,E and K, it is very unlikely that a water soluble vitamin will cause toxic symptoms. In addition, this MD is taking a big risk by making a comment such as this, b/c in pregnancy, folic acid requirements are increased, so the RDA of 400 mcg is not applicable, and many pts may not eat enough greens everyday due to busy or stressful lifestyle.

Student - March 25, 2010 1:18 PM

The reason folic acid supplements are reccommended during pregnancy and whilst trying to concieve is because dietary folate is less bioavailable than folic acid. Although the foods mentioned are high in folate, the amount that can actually be utilised by the body is quite small. It is worth considering this before dismissing folate supplements, there is good reason behind their promotion.

Deana Ferreri - March 25, 2010 3:26 PM

Actually, the high (probably excessive)bioavailability of synthetic folic acid is actually the main factor that scientists believe gives folic acid its carcinogenic properties.

Piola - April 24, 2010 10:30 AM

I have a problem with your recommendation. It's great for women with regular pregnancies, but what about women that already had a NTD (neural tube defect) pregnancy because of low folic acid levels?

For me I have to take 4mg of folic acid to prevent it. When preparing for my second pregnancy I checked my folic acid levels after taking 4 mg of folic acid in pills and the level was about normal. The baby was born healthy. The doctor thinks I may have folic acid deficiency. What do you do in that case?? I could eat all the green vegetables in the world but I still need the pills for the next pregnancy. I will not take any chances...

Jennifer - June 24, 2010 9:23 PM

For women who do not have a history of NTDs this may be a great recommendation. For me it is not, I already lost a baby due to anencephaly. My doctor prescribed 4mg of folic acid, I will take my chances of having cancer someday if it means my next pregnancy will be a healthy one, with a healthy child.

Collmom - June 13, 2011 5:35 AM

What multi vitimans can one take if you cannot afford Dr Furhman vitimans??

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