The World's Healthiest Foods

High Folate Intake Linked to Reduced Colorectal Cancer Risk in Women

High dietary intake of the B vitamin folate may significantly lower women's risk of developing colorectal cancer. An international team of epidemiological researchers in NY and Canada found that women with the highest intakes of folate were 40% less likely than those who consumed the least to develop cancer of the colon and rectum.

The researchers, who evaluated a group of 5,681 women enrolled in the Canadian National Breast Screening Study, reported that women with the highest intakes of folate—more than 367 micrograms per day—had the lowest risk of cancers of the colon, rectum or both. In the U.S., the recommended daily intake for folate is 400 micrograms.

Folate, which is also called folic acid or folacin has been most publicized for its importance in pregnancy, especially in the prevention of neural tube defects. As the baby develops, the top part of this tube helps form the baby's brain, and the bottom part unfolds to become the baby's spinal column. When the neural tube fails to close properly, serious brain and spinal problems result. Mothers with inadequate supplies of folic acid have been determined to give birth to a greater number of infants with neural tube defects.

Folate is vital to the baby’s development since it is crucial for normal DNA methylation, synthesis and repair, activities that remain crucial to normal cell functioning and replication throughout our life. So, researchers have hypothesized that a deficiency of folate can lead to cancer through disruption of these processes—a hypothesis that this study supports.

Many of the World’s Healthiest Foods are rich in folate. Excellent sources of folate include spinach, parsley, broccoli, beets, turnip greens, asparagus, romaine lettuce, calf's liver, and lentils.

To learn more about any of these folate-rich foods, including quick and easy cooking and serving ideas for them, simply click on the highlighted name of the food in the above list.

To learn more about this essential B vitamin, click folate.

For even more suggestions for ways to enjoy foods rich in folate more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating, you can get a list of the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing these foods. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you’d like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

Reference: Terry P, Jain M, Miller AB, Howe GR, Rohan TE. Dietary intake of folic acid and colorectal cancer risk in a cohort of women. Int J Cancer 2002 Feb 20;97(6):864-7.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-22 15:37:38
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation