12 January - 20 June 2016

Folic acid and breast cancer

29 Jan 14

Diet supplementation with folic acid has long been considered beneficial to health, although the benefits are as yet largely unproven with the exception of women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, where it has been shown to prevent neural birth defects such as spina bifida.  In North America, it is common for cancer patients to be prescribed vitamin supplements, containing folic acid fortification, after a cancer diagnosis.  Similarly, there is a high prevalence amongst cancer survivors of multivitamin and supplement use, especially with survivors of breast cancer.  However, a recent rat study published in PLOS ONE by researchers in Toronto shows evidence that folic acid supplementation of between 2.5 and 5 times the daily requirement significantly promotes pre-existing tumour growth in the mammary glands of rats.  Within the study, no relationship was observed between the degree of supplementation and the extent of tumour growth, however the most consistent and repeatable results were seen in the group exposed to 2.5 times the daily requirement.  Although no extensive investigation was carried out into the mechanism behind the tumour growth, it is postulated that folic acid supplementation may increase expression of the protein HER2, which is associated with mammary carcinogenesis.  In recent years, food manufacturers in the US and Canada have been required to add folic acid to a number of products, such as white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal.  In addition, it is estimated that 30-40 % of North Americans take folic acid supplements.  Further studies into the tumour-promoting effect of folic acid supplementation in humans are required before conclusions can be drawn as to whether a high intake of folic acid could be detrimental to health.

RSSL's Functional Ingredients Laboratory provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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