A mild deficiency of Folic Acid, if accompanied by mild deficiencies of Vitamins B2, B6, and B12 may allow alterations in pathways that then increase the risk of colon cancer
Scientists at the USDA Human Nutrition research Center on Aging at Tufts University understand why the results of a study concerning a single nutrient should not be considered in a vacuum; nutrients work in pathways that are dependent on other nutrients. In fact, in the case of Folic Acid they have discovered just that. Research shows that Folic Acid has an ability to lower the risk of developing colon cancer; a life threatening disease. They dug a little bit deeper and considered the Wnt pathway; a pathway that is involved in normal physiological, day-to-day processes, but a pathway that also plays an important part in the formation of colon cancer.
The scientists paired ninety-six mice and fed them diets with depletions in different combinations of B-Complex vitamins for 10 weeks to see if this caused an alteration in the Wnt pathway in the tissue lining their colon. They found that if the mice did not receive an adequate amount of particular B-Complex Vitamins they suffered with damage to their DNA strands. Simply lacking Folic Acid was not enough, if they lacked Folic Acid in conjunction with inadequate intake of Vitamin B2, B6, and B12, they had the disturbing changes to the pathway. Additionally, any disturbing changes that occurred at the molecular level caused by a Folic Acid deficiency was significantly magnified by a concurrent depletion of the other B-Complex Vitamins. If you have sufficient levels of these B-Vitamins there was the expected execution and demise of colon cancer cells, but without the combination of B-Vitamins the ability to kill the cancer cells was attenuated (lessened).
The take home message is that a mild deficiency of Folic Acid may not cause an alteration in the Wnt pathway but in the presence of mild deficiencies of other B-Complex Vitamins (B2, B6, and B12) can result in dangerous alterations that increase the risk of colon cancer. The study is published in the December 2007 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.