The hot topic that kicked off our research conference today was about how some selenium, folic acid and other micronutrients decrease cancer risk, but too much may actually increase risk. It’s delightfully termed the “Goldilocks Effect” and Glen wrote about it earlier.
All the scientists stressed that certain amounts of micronutrients show cancer protection. Supplements can give you too much. But a healthy amount of foods cannot give you the high amounts under study for harm. And these foods are loaded with plenty of other nutrients and phytochemicals linked with cancer protection and good health.
So what foods can give you selenium and folate? Here’s a few:
Joel Mason, MD of Tufts University Medical Center kicked off the opening plenary session of the 2014 AICR Research Conference with a deep dive into one of the most intriguing and – to the public, at least – confusing and even frustrating areas of cancer prevention research.
As scientists learn more about the interplay between diet and cancer risk, it’s clearer than ever that the role of many dietary factors in several cancers is more complex than was once thought.
The entire plenary session of our research conference is focusing on the notion of the “Goldilocks Effect”– the idea that, for several dietary factors, the old idea of “more is better” is flatly wrong. (In scientific circles, this phenomenon is known as the “U-shaped curve,” which describes the graph of dose-response observed as consumption of a given dietary factor increases – from high risk (low consumption) to lower risk (adequate consumption) and back to high risk (high consumption).
Mason spoke on folate as a case in point: Habitually low consumption of folate is associated with higher risk for colorectal and other cancers, as low folate levels increase genomic instability in cells. But in some cases, getting too much folate in the diet has also been linked, in animal models and in some human studies, to increased risk. He stressed, however, that this finding remains controversial, as the evidence for a risk-increasing effect for folate is by no means as consistent as the evidence for its protective role. But until we learn more, he advised that the general population stick to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to limit folic acid intake to less than 1000 mcgs/day. Continue reading
Another supplement study, another finding that suggests supplements do not protect against cancer. This latest study focuses on B vitamins and colorectal adenomas or polyps, which have the potential to become cancerous.
Taking a combination of three B vitamin supplements, including folic acid, appears to neither increase nor decrease colorectal polyps, at least among women at high risk for heart disease. Earlier studies have suggested that too much folic acid may actually increase the risk of colorectal cancer for some people, so this finding showing the vitamins caused no polyps is important.
The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In the study, approximately 5,500 women were randomly given a daily B vitamin supplement or placebo. The supplement was made up of folic acid (B9), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a vitamin found in dark leafy greens and peanuts. Continue reading