Folic acid and stomach cancer in animals.





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Consumer Data: Folic Acid
Professional Data: Folic Acid


Folic acid is a member of the water-soluble B vitamin group. Isolated in 1946 from spinach leaves, its name comes from folium, the Latin word for leaf. In the body, folic acid is converted to a more biologically active form. Folic acid occurs in a wide variety of foods. Best sources include dark green leafy vegetables, brewer's yeast, liver and eggs. Other good sources are beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, orange juice, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, kidney and lima beans, wheat germ, and whole grain cereals and breads. The body's "friendly" intestinal bacteria also produce folic acid.

In women, folic acid is crucial for closure of the fetus' neural tube during pregnancy. Studies also suggest that many people with major depression or schizophrenia may benefit from folic acid supplementation.1 Folic acid can also lower homocysteine levels. Because homocysteine is an amino acid that is a significant risk factor for atheroslerosis, folic acid may prevent the development and progression of the disease. In addition, studies have shown that folic acid may be beneficial for anemia, osteoporosis, cervical dysplasia, as well as gingivitis.

A recent animal study looked at the effects that folic acid may have on stomach cancer. The study, published in the journal Gut, involved 16 male dogs that were fed ENNG (a cancer inducing substance) for 8 months. They were then evenly divided into the control and folic acid group. The folic acid group received 20 mg of folic acid for 15 months. In both groups the serum folic acid levels were observed and biopsies were preformed every 2 to 3 months during the experiment. At the end of this investigation, all 8 dogs in the control group developed stomach cancer, while only 3 of the 8 in the folic acid group did. There was also a statistically substantial difference in the folic acid levels in the two groups. The authors concluded that in ENNG induced stomach cancer in dogs, high doses of folic acid may have chemopreventitive effects.2


1. Godfrey PS, et al. Enhancement of Recovery from Psychiatric Illness by Methylfolate. Lancet. Aug1990;336(8712):392-95.
2. Xiao SD. Interventional study of high dose folic acid in gastric carcinogenesis in beagles. Gut. Jan 2002;50:61-64.