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Higher Folic Acid Levels in Teens Tied to Academic Success
Date:7/11/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who have high levels of folic acid appear to do better in school than those with lower levels, Swedish researchers report.

"Folate intake had a positive association with academic achievement" in the students studied, the authors wrote in the report published in the July 11 online edition and the August print issue of Pediatrics.

Not only should health providers monitor folic acid levels in teens, but the findings should influence school meals, school teaching and information given to parents, according to the researchers.

Teens often have high levels of the blood protein homocysteine, an amino acid linked to heart disease, and low levels of folic acid. In previous studies, folic acid levels have been linked to mental ability; however, until now this had not been linked with improved school performance, the study authors said.

"We know that folate plays a really critical role in brain development and brain function," said Dr. Daniel Armstrong, associate chair of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

"We know that, in young children, folate deficiencies are associated with poorer neurocognitive function and neurocognitive development," he noted. In fact, folate deficiencies may be involved in the development of autism, he added.

Armstrong thinks that a diet rich in folate might be important for brain functioning throughout life. "It's one of those things that's no harm, no foul. It's not going to do us any harm and it might do us some good," he said.

To find out whether folate might do some good, a team led by Dr. Torbjorn K. Nilsson, from the department of laboratory medicine at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, collected data on folic acid levels in 386 teens aged 15 years. The researchers also looked at any possible effects of socioeconomic status and genetics.

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