In a resent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers studied the effect of 1 mg daily of folic acid on the risk of colon cancer.
The study included over a thousand men and women who had polyps removed during colonoscopy. Polyps are small benign growths in the colon which, when left untreated, can end up becoming cancerous. This means that the people who were included in this study had sick colons.
The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either folic acid or sugar-pill as placebo. In addition, the patients were randomly assigned to take low dose aspirin, regular dose aspirin or placebo. At the end of the study, scientists were disappointed to find that folic acid had no effect on risk of colon cancer.
At this point the study should have been completed and published with the final result being “in this study, folic acid did not appear to decrease colon cancer risk in people with sick colons”. This result, however, does not make headline news…
The researchers then continued looking and crunching numbers and found a non-statistically significant increase in prostate cancer risk. What this means is that the finding can not be proven to be anything more than bad luck rather than a cause-effect relationship. Of course, this non-significant finding became what the press caught onto even though most researchers would throw the finding away as just chance occurrence.
What does all this mean?
The final conclusion is disappointing but not unexpected. When polyps are found in the colon, this means that you have a sick colon. The fact that the polyps were removed simply covers up the symptom of a sick colon. To expect one synthesized vitamin to make an impact on a complicated condition simply speaks to the ignorance of conventional medicine to natural approaches to health.
Is it possible that folic acid plays a role in cancer prevention?
We know it does. We know that folic acid deficiency results in significant damage to DNA which can certainly play a part in the development of cancer. However, if folic acid deficiency is not present then adding more folate to the biochemical soup of our bodies will not make a significant difference.
Does folic acid increase cancer risk?
Most likely not, this study certainly does not convince me otherwise. However, let me take a devil’s advocate position. We know that folic acid exists as both an active form and an inactive form.
The folic acid used in the study is in the “inactive” form and could potentially block the active form from doing its job. It would make more sense to supplement with an activated form of folic acid called methyltetrahydrofolate. This would negate the blocking effect of standard folic acid and provide more benefit. The take-home messages are:
- Folic acid likely does not increase cancer risk. This study showed a possible trend which could be due to chance alone.
- Many studies have found that folic acid may protect against certain cancers.
- Folic acid is best taken in the activated form.
- Eating foods high in natural folate is safe and beneficial to the body.
I recommend a fascinating book written by the doctor who developed the modern day colonoscopy. The book is called The Enzyme Factor and explains how a high enzyme diet, such as a diet high in raw fruits and vegetables, can reverse the damage to the colon and turn your overall health around.