What is the Connection Between Folic Acid and Cancer ?

Anna T.

The connection between folic acid and cancer is related to the possibility that too much folic acid might contribute to cancer. Most people are advised to get about 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid every day, but the majority of the general population gets closer to 1,000 mcg per day. This is because many foods come fortified with various vitamins and minerals, including folic acid. Studies indicate that the liver does not properly metabolize excess folic acid in the body, and the extra amount can cause cells that are pre-cancerous to become cancerous. Even though there is likely reason to be concerned about the relationship between folic acid and cancer, it is still a recommended daily nutrient.

Legumes contain folic acid.
Legumes contain folic acid.

Other evidence linking folic acid and cancer involves the sudden rise in cancer that happened just after many governments started fortifying foods. Before fortification was commonplace, cancer rates were much lower. Additionally, cancer rates tend to be lower in countries that do not fortify foods than they are in countries that do. There have also been studies conducted that measured the amounts of folic acid taken in by different groups of people over an extended period of time. The findings of these studies indicate that people who got 1,000 mcg of folic acid or more on most days were twice as likely to develop certain types of cancer than people who got less.

Leafy green vegetables are a good source of folic acid.
Leafy green vegetables are a good source of folic acid.

The types of foods that are frequently fortified with extra folic acid are breakfast cereals, white bread, and white flour. Many types of pre-packaged breakfast foods, including instant oatmeal and grits, are also often fortified. Some of these foods might contain as much as 200 mcg of folic acid per serving. If a person eats a lot of fortified foods, it would be very easy for him to quickly take in much more folic acid than he needs, thereby potentially increasing his risk of cancer.

More research needs to be done regarding folic acid and cancer, but most experts still insist that it is beneficial for many different reasons. Women who are pregnant or actively trying to conceive should most likely make an effort to get in their daily dose of 400 mcg of folic acid every day because it could prevent neural tube defects in their fetuses. There is also a possibility that taking the appropriate amounts of folic acid might reduce a person's chances of heart attack and stroke. People who are concerned about folic acid and cancer may need to closely monitor their daily intake to be sure that they are not getting more than they need. It might also be a good idea for people who eat lots of fortified foods to avoid additionally taking multivitamins that contain folic acid.

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