Folic acid ‘cancer risk’ played down

Folic acid ‘cancer risk’ fears played down by study

Worries that taking extra folic acid might increase the chance of cancer had been played down by a tremendous study.

Following Canadian research linking the vitamin with a small rise in cancer, the study inside the Lancet journal checked out data from 50,000 people.

It found no significant differences in those taking folic acid.

Taken in early pregnancy, it reduces the possibilities of certain birth defects and there were calls so as to add it to food within the UK.

Many countries, including america and Canada, South Africa and Australia, already add folate – often known as folic acid or Vitamin B9 – to all flour.

It is proven to attenuate the collection of babies born with “neural tube defects” akin to spina bifida.

One of the unique reasons behind this more cautious approach in western Europe was the danger that folic acid supplementation could disguise anaemia symptoms in a small variety of older people.

However, another more pressing concern was prompted by the 2007 study that found the incidence of colorectal cancer, which have been falling within the US and Canada, rose temporarily just after the vitamin was automatically added to flour.

One theory suggested that folate had boosted the expansion of tiny, as-yet undetected cancers or pre-cancers, permitting them to be diagnosed earlier and giving the impression that cancer rates had increased.


The Lancet study compared cancer rates over a five-year period in 50,000 people from several countries, some taking a folic acid supplement and a few a placebo.

The doses of folate tended to be much higher than those proposed for mandatory fortification of flour, but a slight increase in cancer incidence recorded on this group didn’t reach statistical significance, meaning it usually is the fabricated from chance alone.

One of the report authors, Dr Robert Clarke, from the Clinical Trial Service Unit on the University of Oxford, said that the findings were “reassuring”.

“If there has been a considerable effect, we might expect to have seen it by now,” he added.

He said that while the doses proposed for mandatory fortification of flour were much less than those within the study, a small proportion of folk were known to mix this with extra supplements.

He said: “If there’s any caution now, here’s the crowd of individuals involved.”

New restrictions at the availability of high-dose supplements are one possible solution.

The UK’s chief medical officers have already recommended that folate be added to flour, and the call now rests with government ministers.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is a complicated issue, with a balance of risks and benefits which ministers should consider very carefully. We already advise women deliberating starting a family and pregnant women to take folic acid supplements.”

The British Dietetic Association says that fortification can be a “simple way” to extend folic acid intake around the population.

Spokesman Dr Sarah Schenker said that while there has been still some caution over anaemia within the elderly, overall the advantages would outweigh the hazards.

She said: “It could possibly certainly be recommended to pregnant women and people who may become pregnant.

“Fortification can be a good suggestion because our health messages about healthy eating aren’t always getting through.”

HIV ‘may have an ancient origin’

HIV ‘may have an ancient origin’

Bonobo chimps in Africa

The origins of HIV may be traced back millions instead of tens of thousands of years, research suggests.

HIV, which causes Aids, emerged in humans within the 20th Century, but scientists have long known that similar viruses in monkeys and apes have existed much longer.

A genetic study shows HIV-like viruses arose in African monkeys and apes 5 million to twelve million years ago.

The research may at some point result in an easier understanding of HIV and Aids.

HIV affects 34 million people worldwide.

The disease emerged in the course of the 20th century after a HIV-like virus jumped from chimps to humans.

Scientists have long known that similar viruses, referred to as lentiviruses, are widespread in African primates.

Past genetic research has suggested these “cousins” of HIV arose tens of thousands of years ago, but some experts have suspected here’s an underestimate.

Evolutionary arms race

Scientists on the University of Washington in Seattle, US, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, also in Seattle, checked out the genetic signatures of HIV-like viruses in several primates, including chimps, gorillas, orang utans and macaques.

Changes in genes which have evolved within the immune systems of monkeys and apes in Africa suggest the viruses arose between 5 and 16 million years ago.

The research, published within the journal PLOS Pathogens, gives clues to how the immune systems of our closest relatives evolved to fight infection.

Dr Michael Emerman of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said: “Our study reveals that, while primate lentiviruses will have modern consequences for human health, they’ve got ancient origins in our non-human primate relatives.”

Commenting at the study, Dr Sam Wilson of the MRC – University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research in Glasgow, said: “This type of research helps us know how the virus works.

“The hope is that someday this will likely translate into therapy.”

Kidney failure risk for diabetics

Kidney disease ‘biggest threat’ for diabetics

Kidney disease is usually a complication arising from diabetes

Keeping your kidneys healthy can be the easiest way to increase your life when you have Type 2 diabetes, researchers have suggested.

The University of Washington study found that having kidney disease meant a far higher risk of early death.

UK experts say that the NHS continues to be not putting enough effort into detecting and controlling kidney problems as a result of diabetes.

Figures from 2012 suggest only seven in 10 patients get vital annual checks.

Approximately 5% of individuals within the UK were diagnosed with diabetes, and careful management in their condition through a mix of medicine and lifestyle changes can mean it has relatively little impact on their lives.

However, if the disease was present for a while ahead of diagnosis, or is poorly managed afterwards, the danger of life-changing complications rises.

These include eye and lower limb problems, and kidney problems.

The research, within the Journal of the yankee Society of Nephrology, checked out mortality rates over a ten-year period in additional than 15,000 adults, with and without diabetes.

Kidney disease was found in 9.4% of the folks without diabetes, and 42.3% of these with diabetes.

They found that 7.7% of these without diabetes or kidney disease died over the process the last decade-long study.

This rose to 11.5% for folks with diabetes but no kidney disease, but soared to 31.1% for folk with diabetes and kidney disease.

‘No excuse’

Lead researcher Dr Maryam Afkarian said: “Individuals with type-two diabetes have many other risk factors for heart problems and mortality, so we expected that kidney disease would predict an element, but not a majority, of better mortality.”

Singling this group of patients out for intensive treatment, or working harder to avoid kidney disease from taking hold, is usually a powerful way of reducing deaths among individuals with diabetes, she added.

Cathy Moulton, a clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, said that if detected early, diabetic kidney disease can be controlled using blood pressure medication.

However, the charity’s 2012 report found that as many as three in 10 patients were missing out the straightforward blood or urine tests that might reveal their kidney problems.

She said: “There really is not any excuse for this – there may be clear guidance saying that kidney function must be tested.

“Quite often the doctor would be taking blood for other purposes, corresponding to checking levels of cholesterol, so it’s the easiest thing on this planet to do.”

Kidney failure would cost the NHS thousands more in expensive dialysis treatments, she added.

Diabetes UK has compiled an inventory of 15 “healthcare essentials” that it says every patient with the disease should read and confirm they’re receiving from the NHS.