Ask The Expert
By Dan Lukaczer, ND

Folic Acid And Cancer
Q: Colon cancer runs in my family. Can folic acid help lower my chances of getting the disease?

A: A person's risk of developing colon cancer is two times greater if she has a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with the disease. But you can change those odds. Researchers of the Nurses Health Study found that a diet high in folic acid, high in methionine (an essential amino acid), and low in alcohol, when followed for at least five years, reduced colon cancer risk much more sharply in those with immediate family relatives who had the disease than in those without such a family history. The female subjects with a high-folate diet (more than 400 mcg per day) virtually eliminated the increased risk of colon cancer associated with a family history of the disease. A similarly large epidemiological study of Canadian women lends further support to this folate connection and is yet another indication that our genetic predisposition doesn't have to determine our health.

Calcium OK After Kidney Stones
Q: Should I take calcium after I've been diagnosed with kidney stones?

Yes, if you have the most common kind of kidney stone made from calcium oxalate. Once someone has a kidney stone attack, he has nearly a 50 percent chance of getting a second stone within five to seven years. Preventive treatment is critical. Although doctors still recommend a low-calcium diet to prevent recurrent stones, long-term studies on the usefulness of this strategy have been lacking.

Researchers recently confirmed that low-calcium diets are neither necessary nor effective in preventing kidney stones. They compared the effects of two diets in 120 men with recurrent calcium oxalate stones. Sixty men ate a diet that included a normal amount of calcium but reduced amounts of animal protein (52 grams per day) and salt. The other 60 men ate a low-calcium diet. At the five-year mark, 12 men on the normal-calcium, low-animal-protein, low-salt diet and 23 on the low-calcium diet had relapses. Thus, in men with recurrent calcium oxalate stones, restricted intake of animal protein and salt combined with a normal calcium intake provided greater protection than the traditional low-calcium diet. This research, along with other epidemiological studies that have demonstrated an increased incidence of recurrent kidney stones in individuals with low-calcium intakes, strongly suggests there is no need to reduce calcium in your diet.

Dan Lukaczer, ND, is the director of clinical research at the Functional Medicine Research Center, a division of Metagenics Inc., in Gig Harbor, Washington.