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CRN Emphasizes Importance of Folic Acid Benefits

WASHINGTON, The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) today responded to a study and accompanying editorial on folic acid and the prevention of cancer in the June 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by urging the scientific research community, the media, and the government not to jump to conclusions that would undo the important strides made in recent years in encouraging supplementation and food fortification with folic acid.

"The benefits of folic acid are well-documented, particularly in the area of reducing the risk of neural tube birth defects," said Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN. "There is also promising scientific evidence for folic acid in reducing the risk of congenital cardiovascular defects, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. It would be a huge public disservice potentially resulting in extremely negative health consequences if scientists, the media or government rushed to judgment based on this study."

CRN noted that the study, which found that folic acid did not prevent the incidence of benign tumors (colorectal adenomas) in patients with a history of tumors, was conducted in response to epidemiological studies showing a potential benefit. The lack of an observed benefit in this study may have resulted because folic acid was used like a drug to treat pre-existing disease, rather than as a nutrient. "It's not surprising that folic acid alone may not prevent the recurrence of adenomas," said Dr. Shao. "Perhaps in combination with other related nutrients or in subjects without previous adenomas we would have seen more promising results, confirming what was suggested from earlier research."

In examining the secondary results of the study, which hinted at the possibility that an over abundance of folic acid might promote cancer cells in those who already have cancer, the editorial noted the "dual effect" that refers to other previous research
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