Folate and lung cancer

July 29, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

As scientists continue to unravel the genetics of cancer, other researchers are also discovering ways of using these information in preventing or slowing down cancer.

Take for example lung cancer. Studies have identified a high number of genetic mutations in the lungs of smokers. Furthermore, the carcinogens that cause their mutations vary depending on the cigarettes, their ingredients and how they are manufactured.

But knowing the genetic mechanisms of cancer is not enough. Steven Belinsky of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico and his colleagues studied more than 1000 current and former smokers and report possible ways of slowing down  lung cancer even if not being able to beat it completely. And it is something that you can do all by yourself through lifestyle change. The answer lies in your diet. The research results indicate that genetic changes that lead to lung cancer is less severe among those who ate leafy green vegetables , multivitamins and foods rich with folate.

According to Dr. Belinsky:

“These studies do in fact indicate that substances in these food groups and in the multivitamins could potentially retard the processes by which these gene changes occur in the smoker.’’

The researchers identified sputum samples of smokers eight genes  which are commonly “silenced” in lung cancer patients and strongly associated with risk for this disease.

Folate is a vitamin commonly associated with pregnancy to prevent fetal defects such as spina bifida. However, everybody needs folate. According to World’ Healthiest Food, folate

So what are foods that are rich in folate?

Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Folate and Folic Acid

Food Micrograms (μg) % DV^
*Breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the DV, ¾ cup 400 100
Beef liver, cooked, braised, 3 ounces 185 45
Cowpeas (blackeyes), immature, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 105 25
*Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV, ¾ cup 100 25
Spinach, frozen, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 100 25
Great Northern beans, boiled, ½ cup 90 20
Asparagus, boiled, 4 spears 85 20
*Rice, white, long-grain, parboiled, enriched, cooked, ½ cup 65 15
Vegetarian baked beans, canned, 1 cup 60 15
Spinach, raw, 1 cup 60 15
Green peas, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 50 15
Broccoli, chopped, frozen, cooked, ½ cup 50 15
*Egg noodles, cooked, enriched, ½ cup 50 15
Broccoli, raw, 2 spears (each 5 inches long) 45 10
Avocado, raw, all varieties, sliced, ½ cup sliced 45 10
Peanuts, all types, dry roasted, 1 ounce 40 10
Lettuce, Romaine, shredded, ½ cup 40 10
Wheat germ, crude, 2 Tablespoons 40 10
Tomato Juice, canned, 6 ounces 35 10
Orange juice, chilled, includes concentrate, ¾ cup 35 10
Turnip greens, frozen, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 30 8
Orange, all commercial varieties, fresh, 1 small 30 8
*Bread, white, 1 slice 25 6
*Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 25 6
Egg, whole, raw, fresh, 1 large 25 6
Cantaloupe, raw, ¼ medium 25 6
Papaya, raw, ½ cup cubes 25 6
Banana, raw, 1 medium 20 6

Source: Office of Dietary Supplement, National Institutes for Health (ODS)

How much folate do we need?

Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances for Folate for Children and Adults [10]

Age
(years)
Males and Females
(μg/day)
Pregnancy
(μg/day)
Lactation
(μg/day)
1-3 150 N/A N/A
4-8 200 N/A N/A
9-13 300 N/A N/A
14-18 400 600 500
19+ 400 600 500

*1 DFE = 1 μg food folate = 0.6 μg folic acid from supplements and fortified foods

Source: Office of Dietary Supplement, National Institutes for Health (ODS)

Special warning

Folate from natural sources is not linked to any health risks. However, folate supplements in the form of folic acid can be toxic if taken in large amounts.

According to ODS:

Beware of the interaction between vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Intake of supplemental folic acid should not exceed 1,000 micrograms (μg) per day to prevent folic acid from triggering symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency [10]. Folic acid supplements can correct the anemia associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, folic acid will not correct changes in the nervous system that result from vitamin B12 deficiency. Permanent nerve damage can occur if vitamin B12 deficiency is not treated.

It is very important for older adults to be aware of the relationship between folic acid and vitamin B12 because they are at greater risk of having a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you are 50 years of age or older, ask your physician to check your B12 status before you take a supplement that contains folic acid. If you are taking a supplement containing folic acid, read the label to make sure it also contains B12 or speak with a physician about the need for a B12 supplement.

Can folic acid increase cancer risk?

April 29, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

pregnancy-2In the developed world, many food stuffs, especially flour and grain products, are fortified with folate and folic acid. Folic acid fortification has been going on since 1998 and its goal is to make sure that women consume enough folate during pregnancy. Deficiency of this essential vitamin can lead to birth defects, including the much-dreaded spina bifida.

“Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is a B vitamin that occurs naturally in leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables. It has been shown to significantly reduce the chance of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, and helps produce and maintain healthy cells and is involved in numerous biological functions.”

Now, just over a decade later, there is a growing body of research that questions the benefits and risks of folic acid fortification. There have been indications, for example, that “long-term consumption of folate and folic acid may increase the risk of developing certain cancers in some people.

In a recent study, Canadian researchers at the University of Toronto report that consumption of folic acid consumed during pregnancy can cause changes in gene function of the unborn offspring, changes which can potentially affect its susceptibility to certain diseases, including cancer.

The study is one of many in the relatively new field of epigenetics which looks at how certain genes and gene functions are “turned on” or “turned off” by environmental factors that include diet and lifestyle.

In some cases, genes that protect the body against certain types of cancer can be shut off, while genes that promote tumour formation can be turned on. Changes to genes can also trigger mutations, which explains why epigenetics has been gaining so much attention in the scientific community for its potential ability to help explain the mystery of disease risk.

Many health officials are concerned that the population is consuming excessive amounts of folic acid, leading to the abovementioned gene alternations. The effects of these alterations, however, are not clearly known.

The current study has been performed in rats and can’t conclusively say whether folic acid fortification has detrimental effects on human health, especially that of the unborn child. However several studies in humans have shown that folic acid supplementation does not lower risks for heart disease or cancer.

In fact,

“…it’s becoming harder to ignore the growing debate about folic acid. Despite its clear benefits when taken by pregnant women, the move to fortify food with folic acid means a major portion of the population is consuming a higher level of the supplement than they would otherwise. Now, concern is growing that parts of the population that may be susceptible to colon cancer and other diseases could be put at greater risk due to their inadvertent exposure to folic acid.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Best Arthritis-Friendly Foods

May 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

If you dig into my old posts, I have always mentioned that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and non-fat dairy is good for people suffering from arthritis.

Once more from Reader’s Digest. But this time, a list of nutrient-rich food that is best for people with arthritis:

1. Salmon – one of the riches sources of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. I guess most fish will be good as well?

“…especially because it’s less likely than other cold-water fish to harbor high levels of toxic mercury. In addition to its fatty oils, salmon contains calcium, vitamin D, and folate.”

2. Bananas — though best known as a rich source of potassium, bananas also contain arthritis-fighting vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C. The first thing that my doctor “prescribed” to me was eat lots of bananas. One good thing is that, you can prepare bananas in many different ways. You can eat the ripe ones as is, you can preserve it or put them into your salad. More so, you can blend it with other fruits such as berries or peaches to turn into into a nice fruit drink.

3. Sweet peppers – also rich sources of Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate.

4. Shrimp – I love shrimps. Thankfully it is rich in nutrients too! Too bad for people with shrimp allergies.

Taste and convenience make shrimp the most popular shellfish around. But shrimp also deserves acclaim as one of the few major dietary sources of vitamin D, with three ounces providing 30 percent of the recommended daily amount — more than a cup of fortified milk. Shrimp also contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C, along with other nutrients essential for general health, including iron and vitamin B12.

5. Soy products – for somebody like me who isn’t very much a fan of dairy milk, I find this a good alternative. I need not even drink milk, I can just eat soy foods.

But soybeans also protect bones, thanks to compounds called isoflavones and significant amounts of both vitamin E and calcium. Long a staple of Asian diets, soy can also be found in soy milk — a boon for people who want to avoid lactose or cholesterol in regular milk.

6. Sweet Potatoes – as a child, this was one of my favorite snacks. Even just boiled, sweet potatoes are yummy already. I do not know anybody who never liked sweet potatoes. However, since maybe I feel that I had enough of sweet potatoes as a kid, that’s why I kinda ignored this in my adulthood. Maybe I should start eating sweet potatoes again?

These tropical root vegetables (which, technically, not related to white baking potatoes) are such a nutritional powerhouse, they once topped a list of vegetables ranked according to nutritional value by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.

7. Cheese – my 5-year old son will never eat cheese. Anything with cheese, he will not touch. I often wondered why. Maybe he doesn’t like the taste of cheese? I don’t remember not liking cheese as a child, I often eat cheese still. Because I don’t drink milk, I find this a good substitute for my calcium needs.

Hard or soft, fresh or ripened, cheese in all its variety is an excellent source of calcium for bones, and protein for muscles and other joint-supporting tissues. Depending on type, cheeses (especially hard varieties such as cheddar and Colby) are also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate.

8. Lentils.

These dried legumes, with their rainbow of earthy colors, are prime sources of folate, with a single cup providing about 90 percent of your daily needs. But lentils also provide one of the richest plant-based sources of protein, contain large amounts of soluble dietary fiber, and hold significant stores of vitamin B6. These and other nutrients make lentils protect the body against heart disease and cancer in addition to arthritis.

9. Green tea! Which reminds me, I haven’t had green tea in the last two years. It isn’t my favorite, but it is okay for me to drink it. I guess I just think of its nutritional value. Otherwise, I won’t give green tea a second look.

This mild, slightly astringent tea contains hundreds of powerful antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols and has been cited for helping prevent problems ranging from cancer to heart disease. But studies also suggest green tea may help prevent or ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In one study of induced arthritis in mice, green tea cut the disease onset rate almost in half, and follow-up studies by the same researchers, at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio, show promise in humans.

So…do the above foods included in your diet? You might wanna include them already, especially of you have arthritis.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.