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Folic acid linked to twofold greater risk of dying from Covid – study

Coronavirus: Key symptoms of the new Centaurus variant

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While certain dietary products like vitamin D during the winter months are non-negotiable, others are often questioned by experts. New research has looked at people from the UK who were prescribed folic acid supplements. Surprisingly, these patients were more likely to catch and die from Covid.

Also known as folate, folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9. Low levels of this nutrient are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and birth defects.

From helping your body to make red blood cells to assisting the correct development of babies during pregnancy, folic acid helps with various tasks.

However, the research, published in the journal BMJ Open, found that the nutrient was linked to a 1.5 times higher risk of getting coronavirus.

What’s worse, folic acid was also associated with a 2.6 times higher chance of dying from it.

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The good news is that the research team also found that taking antifolate drug methotrexate with folic acid managed to mitigate the negative impacts on Covid.

In case you’re not aware, methotrexate is used to treat certain types of cancer and some autoimmune diseases.

However, the drug is also an antifolate, which means it interferes with folate that is required by cancer cells for proliferation.

The research team discovered these new findings by looking at folic acid and methotrexate prescription data in 380,380 participants from the UK Biobank.

Ralph Green, co-senior author of the study, said: “We examined whether COVID-19 diagnosis and death were related to the large doses of folic acid – five times the safe upper limit – prescribed to patients for a variety of medically approved indications. 

“We found that the risk of becoming infected and dying from COVID-19 was significantly greater in the group treated with folic acid.”

The research team identified 26,033 individuals with the virus, of whom 820 died.

Furthermore, people with a folic acid prescription were more likely to be diagnosed with Covid (5.99 percent) and had a much higher mortality rate (15.97 percent) than the control group.

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Angelo L. Gaffo, another co-senior author, continued: “Our findings could have implications for patients who take supplementary folate to prevent complications of other pharmacological therapies.

“Although taking folate in these cases is clearly indicated, clinicians should be cautious about excessive folate intake. Of course, our results will require replication.”

The research team noted that the makeup of the UK BioBank data is limited to people aged 45 or older who are mainly of white European ethnicities.

Furthermore, this study didn’t actually look at the serum levels of folic acid in the participants.

Therefore, the research team explained that more research is needed to explore the impact of folic acid on Covid further.

Green added: “The defined safe upper limit of folic acid is one milligram. 

“Until we have more information, it would be prudent to avoid extremely high doses of folic acid unless it is medically indicated. 

“High folic acid would be of greater concern in unvaccinated individuals.”

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