Women: boost folic acid if you drink

For women who consume even a moderate amount of alcohol, studies indicate they should make sure to get the recommended dietary allowance of folic acid so as not to increase their risk of breast cancer. Researchers believe that alcohol, even as little as a glass or two a day, can interfere with how the body utilizes folic acid. This B-vitamin is critical for the formation and repair of DNA. It also helps form red blood cells and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. Recent studies confirm that increasing folic acid intake, coupled with limiting alcohol consumption, reduces the risk of breast cancer.

Researchers at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee reviewed data from a breast cancer study in Shanghai conducted from 1996-1998. They were looking to see what link, if any, there might be between dietary folic acid and breast cancer. Their review found that women who ensured an adequate dietary intake had a reduced risk of breast cancer, particularly if they also ensured adequate amounts of methionine, vitamin B-2 and vitamin B-6, and rarely consumed alcohol.

At the Department of Health Sciences Research at the Mayo Clinic in Michigan, researchers conducted a 12-year study to see if low B-vitamin intake would increase risk of breast cancer. At the end of the study, researchers identified that women who consumed the least amount of folic acid were moderately increasing their risk of breast cancer. This risk was further increased if they consumed alcoholic beverages.

Adults require 400 micrograms per day of folic acid. Good food sources include chicken liver, chickpeas and other legumes, avocado, beets, spinach and orange juice.

Sources: Cancer Res 2001;61(19):7136-41; Epidemiology 2001;12(4):420-8; Leslie Beck’s Nutrition Encyclopedia by L Beck, Prentice Hall:2001