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The B-Complex Vitamin Folic Acid may helpprevent allergies and asthma

May 05, 2009

The B-complex Vitamin Folic acid, already known to decrease the risk of heart disease, birth defects, loss of mental acuity with aging and the risk of certain cancer may help suppress allergic reactions and lessen the severity of allergy and asthma symptoms, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.  

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 scientists say results add to mounting evidence that folate can help regulate inflammation. Recent studies, including other research from Johns Hopkins, have found a link between sufficient folate levels and reduced risk of inflammation-mediated diseases, including heart disease.

In their study the scientists reviewed the medical records of more than 8,000 people aged 2 to 85. The investigators tracked the effect of folate levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms and on levels of IgE antibodies, immune system cells that rise in number in response to an allergic trigger. People with higher blood levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies, fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and lower likelihood of asthma, researchers report. “Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms,” says lead investigator Elizabeth Matsui, M.D. M.H.S., pediatric allergist at Hopkins Children’s

Other findings of the study:

  • People with the lowest folate levels (below 8 nanograms per milliliter) had a 40 % higher risk of wheezing than people with the highest folate levels (above 18 ng/ml).
  • People with the lowest folate levels had a 30% 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% higher risk of allergic symptoms than people with the highest folate levels.
  • Those with lowest folate levels had 16% higher risk of having asthma than people with the highest folate levels.

Blacks and Hispanics had lower blood folate levels — 12 and 12.5 nanograms per milliliter, respectively — than whites (15 ng/ml), but the differences were not due to income and socio-economic status. The Hopkins team is planning a study comparing the effects of folic acid and placebo in people with allergies and asthma. The report on the findings of the Johns Hopkins study appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.