Asthma affects more than 7 percent of adults and children in the United States, and is the most common chronic condition among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Environmental allergies are estimated to affect 25 million Americans, according to the CDC.
That's why it is fascinating that folic acid, or vitamin B9 (a vitamin that is 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 Center.
Scientists now say that the results of recent studies in humans examining the link between blood levels of folate – the naturally occurring form of folic acid — and allergies shows 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. A report on the Hopkins Children’s findings appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
Reviewing the medical records of more than 8,000 people ages 2 to 85 the 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 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.
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, and folate is found naturally in green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts.