Is Folic Acid Helpful or Harmful?

FolicFolic acid may be problematic with people who are concerned about Cancer, because of its ability to affect methylation.  There has also been some negative research associated with the acid form.
For Cancer patients it may be wise to avoid folate in amounts higher than one would find in a multi-vitamin.  Dietary sources are not a problem –leafy greens being the best source.
Reviewing the literature on cancer and vitamin B12 (and folic acid), we see both positive and negative studies. Some research suggests these nutrients may help fight cancer, whereas a handful of studies show the opposite, with potential to foster tumor growth or progression.
One reason for the divergent findings may be that these B vitamins play a role in controlling gene expression. B vitamins are involved in “methylation,” a chemical process which is used to regulate the expression of genes. When a gene is methylated, it is silenced.
Conversely, a lack of methylation (associated with low levels of B12 and folic acid) can lead to up-regulation of gene expression.
A concern with supplementation of high dose vitamin B12 or folic acid is that we do not have control over which genes may be influenced. And there is a risk that helpful tumor suppressor genes could be silenced or oncogenes (genes that foster tumor growth) might potentially be up-regulated.
Until further research clarifies who might benefit vs who is at risk, our best suggestion at this time is to avoid high dose supplementation with vitamin B12 or folic acid (in amounts higher than found in a multiple vitamin)….UNLESS there is evidence of functional deficiency of these nutrients.


  1. Elevated Plasma Vitamin B12 Levels as a Marker for Cancer
  2. Folic Acid Supplementation and Cancer Risk
  3. Folate and cancer prevention: a closer look at a complex picture
Note: Consult with your Naturopathic Doctor before adding any supplement to you regimen.

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