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Does sun exposure lower folate status?

Posted on: February 8, 2014   by  Jeff Nicklas


Folate is a form of vitamin B and is an essential nutrient for our health. Folate is naturally found in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, asparagus, mushrooms and some organ meats. For supplementation, the synthetic form of folate is known as folic acid.

Folate is possibly best known for its importance for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Maintaining healthy folate levels is important in preventing a birth defect known as neural tube defects. Neural tube defects occur in the brain, spine or spinal cord of the fetus and can happen in the beginning of pregnancy, sometimes before the woman is aware she is pregnant. A common neural tube defect is spina bifida, a condition where the fetal spinal column doesn’t close all the way, which can lead to paralysis in the legs.

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7 Responses to Does sun exposure lower folate status?

  1. Rita and Misty

    I wonder if the study results would have been the same if folate had been used rather than folic acid?

    In other words: if “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF” had been used…

    Also, I think it would be interesting to devise a study where participants were on healthy “green” diets for folate–where they actually consumed substantial amounts of leafy greens 5X per week (for example). I wonder what any test results would then yield?

    Our hunter/gatherer ancestors received much more sun and consumed much more greens than we do today–I think…

    By the way: Folic acid supplementation has been linked to increase cancer, masking of B12 deficiency and cognitive decline.

  2. Ian

    Rita: “By the way: Folic acid supplementation has been linked to increase cancer,”

    I thought this had been de-bunked.
    Folic acid supplementation and cancer risk: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
    Qin X, Cui Y, Shen L, Sun N, Zhang Y, Li J, Xu X, Wang B, Xu X, Huo Y, Wang X.
    Int J Cancer. 2013 Sep 1;133(5):1033-41.

  3. Ian

    Also the meta-analysis by Qin et al showed folate supplementation reduces risk of melanoma.

    Could this relate to the study by Borrodale, UVB/A drives down folate increasing risk of melanoma and supplementation corrects that. So that increasing both vitamin D and folate status by supplementation may jointly reduce risk of melanoma. Of course reducing intermittent sun exposure may reduce risk as well.

  4. Rita and Misty

    Ian–thanks for the link to that study. I haven’t read it yet so perhaps it is unfair for me to make this next comment. But, I will make it anyway: does one study prove or disprove anything?

    Since it is possible to supplement with folate, wouldn’t that be a wiser choice?

    Wiser yet–a diet high in healthy, organic greens?

    I wish for sunshine and kale 😉

  5. Rita and Misty

    Well I am embarrassed (maybe not)…I just realized you linked a meta-analysis, and a good-sized one at that. So, I would say it is okay to supplement with folic acid, as this review was certainly of more than one study.

    Sorry for jumping the gun.

    Here is an excerpt:

    “19 studies contributed data to our meta-analyses, including 12 randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Meta-analysis of the 10 RCTs reporting overall cancer incidence (N=38 233) gave an RR of developing cancer in patients randomised to folic acid supplements of 1.07 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.14) compared to controls. Overall cancer incidence was not reported in the seven observational studies. Meta-analyses of six RCTs reporting prostate cancer incidence showed an RR of prostate cancer of 1.24 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.49) for the men receiving folic acid compared to controls. No significant difference in cancer incidence was shown between groups receiving folic acid and placebo/control group, for any other cancer type. Total cancer mortality was reported in six RCTs, and a meta-analysis of these did not show any significant difference in cancer mortality in folic acid supplemented groups compared to controls (RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.30). None of the observational studies addressed mortality.”

  6. Rita and Misty


    At least you know that I do (finally) read what you post, and I admit when I'm mistaken.

    P.S. I still prefer folate.

  7. Ian

    Yes MTHF supplementation would be better than folic acid supplementation. Most people would not know if they have one of the many SNPs in folate metabolism. If you don’t have SNPs then folic acid would be just as good. Just like cholecalcifrol is just as good if not better than 1,25-dihydoxyvitaminD. However for some people and some pathologies 1,25-dihydoxyvitaminD would be necessary.

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