According to a recent research, a diet with low level of folic acid increases the risk of colorectal cancer. This study was published in the journal Cancer Research.
This investigation carried out by scientists at McGill University, reveals the details of the mechanism of the disease and also how to prevent it. This research was based on a previous study by the same group in which, they had shown how folate-rich diets offer protection against heart diseases.
The current study conducted on 137 mice for one year, showed that the risk of development of colorectal cancer was higher in rodents who were fed on a low level- folic acid or folate -diet than those who were fed on a balanced diet with sufficient folate.
"None of the mice fed a control diet developed tumours whereas 1 in 4 mice on the folate-deficient diet developed at least one tumour," says Dr. Rima Rozen, Scientific Director of the Montreal Children's Hospital, Deputy Scientific Director of the MUHC, and lead investigator in the study.
"The study shows that a low level of dietary folate may cause an increase in DNA damage, which plays a role in the development of tumours," noted Dr. Rozen.
Genes that normally respond to DNA damage, function abnormally when there is a deficiency of folic acid. This causes tumour development.
In 2006, about 20,000 men and women will be affected by colorectal cancer and it will claim around 8,500 lives.
"Simply adding a supplement to your daily diet could have tremendous long-term benefits to the individual and the health care system," said Dr. Philip Branton, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research.
"The intake of an adequate amount of dietary folate has also been shown to
prevent a number of other diseases. "
"For example, birth defects such as Spina Bifida, can result in offspring of mothers with inadequate folate in their diet," says Dr. Rozen. "Obviously, this is not a reason to consume excessive amounts of folate, but rather to ensure that the recommended daily amount is taken through a healthy diet or a vitamin supplement," noted Dr. Rozen.
Dr. Andy Smith, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said, "The study is important because it appears to confirm the long-held suspicion that inadequate folic acid plays a role in tumour formation.
"It really helps tease out the actual mechanisms," said Smith.
"And while one shouldn't jump to the conclusion that the mechanism found in mice is exactly the same in humans, I think in this case it really resonates because of the observations made so clearly in humans that low folate is associated with the development of tumours."
The advantages of folate rich diet are known for years. Fortification of food like breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas and rice with folic acid is mandatory in both US and Canada.