All Posts tagged folic

‘No evidence’ for Vitamin B allergy

Consumption of Vitamin B during pregnancy does not increase the risk of allergy in the infants, says a new study from Japan that challenges previous findings. Maternal consumption of folate and vitamins B2, B6, and B12 during pregnancy was not associated with the risk of the infant developing asthma or eczema, according to findings from 763 infants published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.

Contradictory science

The link between folate and folic acid, the synthetic form of the vitamin, and respiratory health is not clear cut, with contradictory results reported in the literature. A study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that higher levels of folate were associated with a 16 per cent reduction of asthma in (Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, June 2009, Vol. 123, pp. 1253-1259.e2). However, a Norwegian study reported that folic acid supplements during the first trimester were associated with a 6 per cent increase in wheezing, a 9 per cent increase in infections of the lower respiratory tract, and a 24 per cent increase in hospitalisations for such infections, (Archives of Diseases in Childhood, doi:10.1136/adc.2008.142448). In addition, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reported that folic acid supplements in late pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma by about 25 per cent in children aged between 3 and 5 years (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2010, doi:10.1093/aje/kwp315).

Illumination from the Land of the Rising Sun?

The new study, performed by researchers from Fukuoka University, the University of Tokyo, and Osaka City University, goes beyond folate and folic acid, and reports no link between Vitamin B intake and the risk of asthma or eczema in children. “To the best of our knowledge, there has been no birth cohort study on the relationship between maternal consumption of Vitamin B during pregnancy and the risk of allergic disorders in the offspring,” wrote the researchers. The findings were based on data from 763 pairs of Japanese mother and child. A diet history questionnaire was used to assess maternal intakes of the various B vitamins during pregnancy, and the infants were followed until the age of 16 to 24 months. Japan has no mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.

Results showed that, according to criteria from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, 22 and 19 percent of the children had symptoms of wheeze and eczema, respectively, but there was no association between these children and the dietary intakes of the various B vitamins by their mothers. “Our results suggest that maternal intake of folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and vitamin B2 during pregnancy was not measurably associated with the risk of wheeze or eczema in the offspring,” said the researchers. “Further investigation is warranted to draw conclusions as to the question of whether maternal Vitamin B intake during pregnancy is related to the risk of childhood allergic,” they concluded.

According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), over 30m Europeans suffer from asthma, costing Europe €17.7bn every year. The cost due to lost productivity is estimated to be around €9.8bn. The condition is on the rise in the Western world and the most common long-term condition in the UK today. According to the American Lung Association, almost 20m Americans suffer from asthma. The condition is reported to be responsible for over 14m lost school days in children, while the annual economic cost of asthma is said to be over $16.1bn.

Source: Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. Volume 22, Issue 1-Part-I, February 2011, Pages: 69–74 DOI: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2010.01081.x
“Maternal B vitamin intake during pregnancy and wheeze and eczema in Japanese infants aged 16–24 months: The Osaka Maternal and Child Health Study”. Authors: Y. Miyake, S. Sasaki, K. Tanaka, Y. Hirota

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Folic Acid in supplements could increase risk of breast cancer

In most women folate, a type of B vitamin, reduces the risk of breast cancer. However, in women with a certain genetic make-up it has shown to be the opposite: folate raises the risk of breast cancer.

“Therefore I think it is too soon to introduce a general fortification of foodstuffs with folic acid”, says nutrition researcher Ulrika Ericson of Lund University.

Neither does she think it is a good idea to take multivitamin tablets and other dietary supplements containing folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) without special reason.

“It is better to eat a diet containing a lot of fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholemeal products. Then you get sufficient quantities of the natural form of folate, other vitamins and dietary fibre.”

In her doctoral thesis, Ulrika Ericson has taken as her starting point the major study from the 1990s, Malmö Diet and Cancer, which gathered information and blood samples from over 17 000 women. At the end of 2004, just over 500 of these women had developed breast cancer. Folate levels, genetic make-up and food habits in the breast cancer patients have then been compared with the corresponding data from the healthy women.

Those women whose intake of folate corresponded to the level recommended in Sweden had only half as great a risk of getting breast cancer as those who had the lowest intake of folate. This was the overall finding, which shows that folate generally protects against breast cancer. However, the breast cancer risk increased in line with folate levels for a specific sub-group among the women – those who had inherited a certain variant of an enzyme that affects how folate is used in the body.

The ten per cent of the women who had inherited this variant from both of their parents had the highest risk of breast cancer, particularly if they also took vitamin tablets containing folic acid.

“No-one knows which genetic variant of this enzyme they have. This is why I think people should only take dietary supplements if there is a particular reason to do so, not just because 'it's probably a good idea'”, says Ulrika Ericson.

She considers that there are two groups who could have a particular reason to take a folic acid supplement. These are people with a certain type of anaemia and low folate levels and women who are trying to become pregnant (folate reduces the risk of neural tube defects in babies).

To be on the safe side, others should avoid vitamin tablets containing folic acid while it is still unclear what the link is between folate and different types of cancer. Mandatory folic acid fortification of foodstuffs, which has been discussed in many countries including Sweden, is not appropriate in the current situation, according to Ulrika Ericson.

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