Higher serum folate levels are associated with a lower risk of atopy and wheeze

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Folic acid, or vitamin B9, essential for red blood cell health and long known to reduce the risk of spinal birth defects, may also suppress allergic reactions and lessen the severity of allergy and asthma symptoms, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre. In what is believed to be the first study in humans examining the link between blood levels of folate – the naturally occurring form of folic acid – and allergies, the Hopkins scientists say results add to mounting evidence that folate can help regulate inflammation. Recent studies, including research from Hopkins, have found a link between folate levels and inflammation-mediated diseases, including heart disease. Cautioning that it’s far too soon to recommend folic acid supplements to prevent or treat people with asthma and allergies, the researchers emphasise that more research needs to be done to confirm their results, and to establish safe doses and risks.

Other findings of the study:

  • People with the lowest folate levels (below 8 nanograms per milliliter) had 40 percent higher risk of wheezing than people with the highest folate levels (above 18 ng/ml).
  • People with the lowest folate levels had a 30 percent higher risk than those with the highest folate levels of having elevated IgE antibodies, markers of allergy predisposition.
  • Those with the lowest folate levels had 31 percent higher risk of atopy (allergic symptoms) than people with the highest folate levels.
  • Those with lowest folate levels had 16 percent higher risk of having asthma than people with the highest folate levels.

Matsui,E, Matsui, W. Higher serum folate levels are associated with a lower risk of atopy and wheeze, Online ahead of press. JACI May 2009. View Abstract

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