Enriched wheat flour is something that the majority of us consume everyday. It is ever present on the ingredient list of most consumer foods and is a staple in the American diet. It sounds fine right? Well wheat is a grain so it’s natural and they are just adding vitamins through the enriching process to make it healthier. In theory this is great but it may not be as healthy as it sounds. Let’s first focus on why food companies ever decided there was a need to start enriching their flour. Wheat when it is just taken from the living plant is made up of three parts–the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. When all these parts are kept together and made into a flour we call this whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is rich in fiber, protein, and a variety of healthy B vitamins. When we make white flour however we remove the germ and the bran and keep only the endosperm. In this process we lose our on these healthy attributes including the majority of our B vitamins. Food companies in an effort to retain the nutritional value started adding back in artificial supplements in the flour. This is great in principle as these are essential vitamins to our health but the issue is that the body does not ready the same to artificial vitamins as it does to natural vitamins. The enriched vitamins include riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid. The first problem is apparent here. They fail to add back in the B vitamin that most people are deficient in yet it plays a major role in our bodies metabolism and creation of red blood cells. That vitamin is B12. It is hard to come by if not supplemented as it is found almost exclusively in animal products, especially red meat. Since red meat is often avoided for the notion that it has negative health implications people tend to become B12 deficient. What’s worse though is how folic acid supplementation affects B 12 deficiency in the body. We often refer to folic acid and folate as the same thing when referring to the vitamin however this is far from the case. Folate is the naturally occurring form while folic acid is the artificially created form. The body thus absorbs and processes the forms differently. Our bodies are more than capable of absorbing and putting to use large amounts of folate–as well as excreting the excess since it is water soluble. Folic acid however needs to be broken down in our liver before it can be absorbed. Our livers are only capable if breaking down small amounts of folic acid at a time so any excess remains in our bodies–unmetabolized– acting like a toxin. Not only do we fail to get the benefits from this supplemented form but it has negative health implications. Unmetabolized folic acid can cover up signs of a B12 deficiency–which as I stated earlier is not uncommon. Therefore enriched flour is not only failing to supplement the complete B vitamin complex but it is diminishing our bodies signals of a deficiency. While I am not necessarily telling you to avoid consumption of enriched flour since it is in almost all foods, I think we all need to be aware of our B vitamin needs. Do not rely of enriched foods to meet our requirements but instead look to natural sources such as vegetables and meat. As long as your intake of B12 is sufficient to meet your needs you won’t experience any negative side effects of folic acid. Enriching foods can only provide limited health benefits, in he end natural is always better.