Women who consume high volumes of folic acid found in Vitamin B from vegetables and some fruits are less likely to suffer from mouth cancer.
For 30 years, researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center and Harvard School of Public Health tracked the health habits of 87,000 nurses. They found that women who drank a high volume of alcohol and had low folic acid intake were three times more likely to develop mouth cancer than those who drank high volumes of alcohol but had high volumes of folic acid in their diet.
Alcohol is one of the major risk factors for mouth cancer, and those who drink to excess are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. This is the first time that folic acid intake has been shown to affect mouth cancer risk. Alcohol leads to a reduction in folic acid metabolism by creating acetaldehyde, which leads to a reduction of folic acid in the body.
As Dr. Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, notes, “Rates of mouth cancer in women have been increasing for many years as a result of changed social habits with more women smoking and drinking. This new research could offer a method to reduce this by looking at the folic acid intake and increasing fruit and vegetables containing folic acid in the diet.
“In the past studies have tended to focus on males, as they are twice as likely to suffer from the disease. Whilst this study focuses on women, we know that men also benefit from the protective value of increased fruit and vegetables.”
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is essential to an individual’s health by helping to make and maintain new cells. Pregnant women are advised to supplement their intake of folic acid, to ensure a healthy development of the baby.
Folic acid is found in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, beans, peas and lentils, and is often added to bread. Fruit juices, broccoli and brussels sprouts contain smaller amounts.
An unhealthy diet has been linked with around a third of mouth cancer cases. Recent research has also shown that an increase in food such as eggs and fish that contain Omega 3 fatty acids, and nuts, seeds and brown rice, which are high in fiber, can help decrease the risks.
Adapted from a British Dental Health Foundation media release
Image by John Pozadzides, via Flickr