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Gut. 1996 Nov;39(5):732-40.

Dietary folate protects against the development of macroscopic colonic neoplasia in a dose responsive manner in rats.

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  • 1Vitamin Bioavailability Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.



Diminished folate status is associated with enhanced colorectal carcinogenesis. This study investigated the potential chemopreventive role of dietary folate in the dimethylhydrazine colorectal cancer model.


Sprague-Dawley rats were fed diets containing either 0, 2 (daily dietary requirement), 8 or 40 mg folate/kg diet for 20 weeks. After five weeks of diet, rats were injected with dimethyl-hydrazine (44 mg/kg) weekly for 15 weeks. Fifteen weeks after the first injection of dimethylhydrazine, all rats were killed. Folate status was determined, and the entire colorectum from each rat was analysed for macroscopic and microscopic neoplasms.


Plasma and colonic folate concentrations correlated directly with dietary folate levels (p < 0.005). The incidence of microscopic neoplasms was similar among the four groups. However, the incidence and the average number of macroscopic tumours per rat decreased progressively with increasing dietary folate levels up to 8 mg/kg diet (p < 0.05). In the strongly procarcinogenic milieu used in this study, folate supplementation at 20 times the basal requirement was associated with rates of macroscopic tumour development that were intermediate, and not statistically distinct, from rates observed at either 0 or 8 mg/kg diet.


These data indicate that in this rat model, (a) increasing dietary folate up to four times the basal requirement leads to a progressive reduction in the evolution of macroscopic neoplasms from microscopic foci; and (b) folate supplementation beyond four times the requirement does not convey further benefit.

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