Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Folate and Liver Cancer

A study published in the June 2007 peer-reviewed issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers suggests that those with low levels of folate may have an increased risk of developing liver damage and liver cancer.

The study established a statistically significant link between serum folate levels and Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), a blood test marker for liver damage. The study subjects with the highest average levels of folate had a 14% reduction in ALT compared to those subjects with the lowest levels of serum folate.

This study should be particularly interesting to those who have ever had hepatitis B, or other illnesses or lifestyle habits that are known to stress the liver (think nightly cocktail hour).

Folate is best metabolized when taken as part of the entire complex of B vitamins - particularly vitamin B12 and B6. That's why the folate in fortified bread has not been as bioavailable to the consumer as the government originally thought it would be, although there is a reported 50% reduction in birth defects related to folate deficiency (spina bifida) since the government recommended that flour products be fortified with folic acid.

We aren't sure whether that reduction relates to fortification or supplementation, since a large population of young women have now been educated about the need to supplement with folic acid if they plan to become pregnant.

We recommend that you get your supplemental folate, 800 mcg per day preferably, as part of a biochemically-balanced full-spectrum multiple.

Remember that too much supplemental folate can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 deficiencies are rare in young people, but fairly common in the older population.


Jim Waugh, MD said...

Unfortunately, it's difficult to get people to think about preventing a disease until they are in pain - even something as deadly as liver cancer. I admire your efforts to educate the public and the medical community.

Ellen said...

Thanks Dr. Waugh.

Folic acid supplementation is a modern miracle.

But, even the most conscientious folic acid supplement user can run into problems. Pressed tablets containing folic acid may not dissolve in the digestive tract, and more often than not, they don't meet The United States Pharmacopeia (USP)dissolution standards.

So, capsules that hold folic acid powder and other micronutrients are preferred.