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Allergy hope for folic acid

Thurs April 30th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood
Folic acid, or vitamin B9, could be an effective treatment for allergy symptoms, researchers reported today.

This essential vitamin was investigated by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. Dr Elizabeth Matsui and her team found a link between levels of folate in the blood (made by folic acid), and allergies.

For their study, they reviewed medical records of more than 8,000 people aged two to 85 years. Those with higher blood levels of folate had fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and lower rate of asthma.

The team think this is due to the dampening effect of folate on inflammation. There is now mounting evidence that folate helps regulate inflammation, they explain.

Dr Matsui says: "Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms.

"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 study is reported in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology. Next, the team plan to carry out a study using people with allergies and asthma, to look at the effects of folic acid supplements.

Many cereals and grain products are already fortified with folate, and it is found naturally in green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts. The recommended daily intake of folic acid for healthy men and non-pregnant women is 400 micrograms.

Matsui, E. et al. The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (in press).

Tags: North America | Diet & Food | Allergies & Asthma | Child Health

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