According to new research, co-led by Dr Konstantinos Tsilidis from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. Increasing the amount of folate through our diet or taking supplements could help to reduce bowel cancer risk. It suggests that increasing the intake of folate – which can be found in leafy greens, such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli – could help to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by up to 7%.

In the largest study of its kind, funded by World Cancer Research Fund and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers analysed data from over 70,000 individuals to identify genetic variants that may modify how dietary folate (vitamin B9), folic acid supplements, and total folate can influence the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).

In line with previous studies, they found that people consuming higher levels of dietary folate, the odds of developing CRC (including proximal colon, distal colon, and rectal cancer) were reduced by 7% for every 260 micrograms higher consumption of dietary folate, which corresponds to 65% of the daily recommended amount (400 micrograms).

According to the authors, the findings support the hypothesis that folate may be effective for CRC prevention, even at regular levels of intake that can be achieved through the diet. The study also suggests folate might be influencing cancer risk, including different genes involved in modulating this risk.