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Folic acid, or vitamin B9, essential for the health of red blood cells and known to reduce the risk of spinal birth defects, may also suppress allergic reactions and lessen the severity of allergy and asthma symptoms.
Johns Hopkins scientists, who conducted the first ever study examining the link between blood levels of folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid and allergies, said 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 its far too soon to recommend folic acid supplements to prevent or treat people with asthma and allergies, researchers emphasise that more research needs to be done to confirm their results, and to establish safe doses and risks.
Reviewing the medical records of more than 8,000 people aged between two and 85 years, investigators tracked the effect of folate levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms and on levels of IgE antibodies, immune system markers that rise in response to an allergen.
People with higher blood levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies, fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and a 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,” said lead investigator Elizabeth Matsui.
“But we still need to figure out the exact mechanism behind it, and to do so we need studies that follow people receiving treatment with folic acid, before we even consider supplementation with folic acid to treat or prevent allergies and asthma.”
The current recommendation for daily dietary intake of folic acid is 400 micrograms for healthy men and non-pregnant women. Many cereals and grain products are already fortified with folate. Folate is also found naturally in green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts, said a Hopkins release.
The study appeared online in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
Sources: The Times Of India
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