Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If it causes harm in mutant mice, should it cause alarm?

I clicked on the link to the article called "Is it folly to take folic acid?" and I'm betting many of you would too if you saw a headline like that. 

The provocative title reeks of those that tell us bananas might actually be poisonous or that we should beware the dangers of broccoli.

The story opens with an acknowledgment that pregnant women 'round the world are encouraged to take folic acid supplements to reduce risk of birth defects. The government even fortifies our food because it's so effective.

But wait, there's "a new mouse study [that] shows that folic acid supplementation can itself sometimes increase the risk of birth defects or even cause the death of embryos."

What? How could that be? The results are actually from experiments "in mice genetically predisposed to giving birth to embryos with neural tube defects."

So the lesson is not to stop taking folic acid supplements if you're pregnant; it's to stop giving folic acid supplements to mutant mice. 

Now tell me... why the scary headline next to the photo of the blissful pregnant woman? 

Because I clicked on it, didn't I?


EllenQ said...

Wow, that seems like irresponsible journalism to me considering that 70% of cases of Spina Bifida have been tied to insufficient folic acid and it is really difficult to get enough from our diets.

Holly Dunsworth said...

The article's all right, I guess, if you read the whole thing. But, still, it's hard to shake that fear mongering in the headline. And I think it should be made much more blaringly obvious that these subjects were engineered to have babies with birth defects in the first place. I think I'm especially sensitive to journalism like this because of all the vaccine craziness... with Bachman spreading rumors that HPV caused retardation in a teenage girl...

Holly Dunsworth said...

meant to write: that the HPV *vaccine* caused...