Previous research has shown that adults with IBD tend to have lower folate levels than those without the disease, according to Nina Holland, PhD, a senior author on the paper. A folate deficiency may have multiple causes, such as poor absorption of folate across the intestinal tract, lower dietary intake of the nutrient, and medication interactions, Holland explained.
"However, pediatric IBD appears to be somewhat different from the adult form, and before this study very little was known about folate levels in newly diagnosed children with this disease," said Holland, who is also a professor of genetics and toxicology at UC Berkeley.
Folate, a form of water-soluble vitamin B, helps produce and maintain new cells, according to the National Institutes of Health. Folate occurs naturally in certain foods, including leafy green vegetables like spinach and turnip greens, citrus fruits and a variety of beans, and is also available as a dietary supplement.
"Folate has extremely important health implications and has actually been shown to prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer and birth defects," said Holland.
The researchers measured blood folate levels in 78 children -- 5 to 17 years old - who were recruited from clinics participating in the Pediatric IBD Consortium that is comprised of six primary centers across the U.S. (in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and San Francisco). Of those children, 37 had newly diagnosed, untreated IBD, and 41 served as controls. Both the red blood cell folate concentrations and whole-blood concentrations were compared between the two groups.
The subjects' blood samples were all processed, analyzed and stored at the Children's Environmental Health Laboratory at UC Berkeley.
Results indicated t
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