(NaturalNews) Vitamin B9, usually called folic acid, has long been known to reduce the risk of spinal birth defects. It is also necessary for healthy red blood cells. Now, in what is believed to be the first study of its kind in humans, scientists at Johns Hopkins Children's Center have found it may also be an effective way to suppress allergic reactions. The vitamin appears to lessen the severity of asthma symptoms, too. The findings were just published in the online edition of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
The Johns Hopkins researchers looked at the connection between blood levels of folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid) and allergies. They reviewed the medical records of more than 8,000 people between the ages of 2 and 85 and tracked the effect of folate levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms. The research team also examined levels of IgE antibodies (immune system markers that rise in response to an allergen) in the research subjects' blood.
The results? Those who had higher blood levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies. What's more, they had fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and were less likely to have asthma.
Other findings of the folic acid study:
*Those with the lowest folate levels (below 8 nanograms per milliliter) had 40 percent greater risk of wheezing than people with the highest folate levels (above 18 ng/ml). The people with low folate levels also had a 16 percent higher risk of having asthma than people with the highest folate levels. *People with the lowest folate levels had a 30 percent higher risk of having elevated IgE antibodies (markers of being predisposed to having an allergy) than those with the highest folate levels. *Research participants with the lowest folate levels had a 31 percent higher risk of atopy (allergic symptoms) than those with the highest folate levels.
The results of their study contribute more evidence to the accumulating data that shows folate can help regulate inflammation. In fact, previous studies, including research by Johns Hopkins scientists, have found an association between folate levels and inflammation-linked diseases, including heart disease.
"Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms," said lead investigator Elizabeth Matsui, M.D. M.H.S., pediatric allergist at Hopkins Children's, in a media statement. "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."
Folic acid is found in many fortified cereals. It can also be obtained from totally natural sources including green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.