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Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief

But use of supplements should await further study, expert says

THURSDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Folic acid, also known an vitamin B9, might help treat allergies and asthma, suggests a new study.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center reviewed the medical records of more than 8,000 people, ages 2 to 85, to track the effect of folic acid levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms and on levels of IgE antibodies, the immune system markers that increase in response to an allergen.

They found that people with higher blood levels of folic acid had fewer IgE antibodies, fewer reported allergies and less wheezing and were less likely to develop asthma. The results appear in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms," Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, a pediatric allergist and the lead investigator, said in a Hopkins news release.

"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," she added.

Folic acid is essential for red blood cell health and has long been known to reduce the risk of spinal birth defects. Recent research has identified an association between folic acid levels and inflammation-mediated diseases, including heart disease, according to background information in the news release.

The current recommendation for folic acid intake for healthy men and non-pregnant women is 400 micrograms a day. Folic acid is found naturally in green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts. Many cereals and grain products are fortified with folic acid.

Asthma affects more than 7 percent of adults and children in the United States, and environmental allergies affect about 25 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More information

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has more about allergies.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Children's Center, news release, April 30, 2009

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