Folate May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Diets high in folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, have been implicated with a reduced risk of many cancers including colo-rectal, lung, and esophageal cancer. Recent evidence also suggests a link between folate and a reduction in pancreatic cancer risk of up to 75% in some cases.

The study, conducted by Swedish researchers and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in March 2006 involved the study of 81,922 men and women from Sweden for an average of 6.8 years.

During the study 135 of the participants developed pancreatic cancer. The researchers found that those who consumed more than 350 micrograms of folate from food per day were a massive 75% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who consumed less than 200 micrograms per day.

Interestingly folate intake from supplements did not lead to a reduction in pancreatic cancer risk suggesting that dietary sources of folate are superior to folate supplements in reducing pancreatic cancer risk.

Folate rich foods include corn, broccoli, eggs, peanuts, milk, oranges, grapes, strawberries, dried beans, beef liver, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, kale, and turnip greens. Folic acid is also added to breads/and or cereals in many countries including the United States.

The American recommended daily allowance (RDA) of folate for adults is currently set at 400 micrograms per day. Just one cup of cooked spinach or 150 grams of peanuts provides more than half of an adults daily folate requirement. Despite the abundance of folate in fruit and vegetables, it is thought that as many as half of American adults get less than the required amount of folate from food sources.

The results of this study are backed up by a similar study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. That study found a 34% reduction in pancreatic cancer in those in the highest category for folate intake compared to the lowest intake but a lack of association between folate from supplements and pancreatic cancer risk.

High folate intake has been linked to a reduction in heart disease, strokes, and colo-rectal cancer. Furthermore, folate may also reduce the risk of breast, esophageal, and lung cancer although the evidence is less conclusive in these cases.