Bel Marra Health, who offers high-quality, specially formulated vitamins and nutritional supplements, reports on a new study that counters recent rumors concerning folic acid use increasing cancer risk.
As Bel Marra Health reports in its article, (http://www.belmarrahealth.com/cancer/can-folic-acid-reduce-cancer-risk), folic acid (also referred to as folate and B9), is a B-vitamin that is found naturally in food and is required for the growth of new cells in the body. Cancer cells also require folic acid in order to grow, divide and spread, and some researchers have expressed concern that too much folic acid may increase the risk for cancer.
According to a recent international analysis however, these concerns are unfounded, and a high intake of folic acid does not increase the risk for cancer.
The researchers of the analysis looked at data from 13 separate studies involving the supplementation of folic acid. All of the studies were placebo controlled, which means that the participants were randomly assigned to either take folic acid or to take a placebo pill for the duration of the study. The study examined a total of 50,000 participants, which the folic acid doses ranged from 0.5 mg to 40 mg per day and the average study duration was five years.
According to data collected from the studies, about 7.7 percent of participants taking the folic acid supplements were diagnosed with cancer, and 7.3 percent taking the placebo were diagnosed. Even in the group taking 40 mg per day, which is about 100 times the recommended dietary allowance (RDI), there was no quantifiable difference in cancer diagnosis. The researchers concluded that “folic acid supplementation does not substantially increase or decrease incidence of site-specific cancer during the first five years of (folic acid) treatment….likewise, there was no increased risk of individual cancers – including colon, prostate, and lung or breast cancer – attributed to folic acid.” The difference of 0.4 percent between the folic acid taking and placebo group was attributed to chance and to other variables that may not have been controlled for in the studies.
This analysis was of significance in the United States and Canada, because the two countries have been adding folic acid to flour since 1998. The two countries mandated the addition of folic acid to flour to ensure that pregnant women have adequate supplies of it, and prevent the brain and spinal cord defects in newborns that are tied to a deficiency of folic acid. Although the total daily amount of folic acid through flour fortification is less than 0.5 mg a day for most in Canada and the US, it would be hard to justify forcing companies to add it to their flour if the international analysis found a definitive link between folic acid intake and cancer.
Skepticism remains despite these findings, however. Some researchers also note that, although the studies were only five years long, most cancers take 10 to 20 years to develop. They also point out that colorectal cancer has become a lot more prevalent in North America since the mandatory fortification with folic acid was introduced 15 years ago, suggesting a possible link. In addition, some warn that, just because folic acid doesn’t cause the initial growth of cancer cells, it doesn’t rule out the connection between folic acid use and the growth and spreading of cancer cells that have already developed.
More research, conducted over longer periods of time, is required in order to have a significant conclusion. In the meantime, nutrition researcher Joshua Miller of Rutgers University in New Jersey says people might want to avoid piling supplements on top of multivitamins and fortified food. “People should realize that if they’re eating breakfast cereals and bread and pastas, they’re getting a good amount of folic acid in food,” he warns. “I think they should try not to exceed the upper limit.”
(SOURCE: Pittman, Genevra. “Folic Acid Intake Doesn’t Increase Cancer Risk, Study Suggests.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 13 Mar. 2013. Web.)
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