Study results link folic acid supplements to higher rates of COVID-19 infections and mortality
The findings have implications for patients taking supplemental folate to prevent complications from other pharmacological therapies.
People in the UK taking folic acid were 1.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and 2.6 times more likely to die from the disease, UC Davis study finds Health and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The findings, published in BMJ openfound that having a prescription for the antifolate drug methotrexate mitigated the negative impact of folic acid on COVID-19 when taken together.
“We investigated whether diagnosis and death of COVID-19 were related to high doses of folic acid, 5 times the upper safe limit, prescribed to patients for a variety of medically approved indications. We found that the risk of getting infected and dying from COVID-19 was significantly higher in the group treated with folic acid,” said Ralph Green, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UC Davis, in a statement.
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, where low levels are associated with health problems, such as an increased risk of birth defects, heart disease and stroke, according to the release.
Folic acid is prescribed for a variety of conditions, including high-risk pregnancies, people receiving anti-epileptic drugs, and sickle cell disease. It is also known to offset adverse events in people taking methotrexate.
Methotrexate treats certain types of autoimmune diseases and cancers, but it also interferes with folate, which cancer cells need to proliferate.
Investigators analyzed folic acid and methotrexate prescription data between 2019 and 2021 among 380,380 people from the UK BioBank, a large biomedical database that contains health information for around half a million people. .
They found that 26,033 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 820 had died from it. People with a methotrexate prescription have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at a similar rate to the general population.
However, investigators found that people with a folic acid prescription were diagnosed at a higher rate at 5.99% and had a much higher COVID-19 death rate at 15.97% than the general population. .
“Our findings may have implications for patients taking supplemental folate to prevent complications from other pharmacologic therapies,” said Angelo Gaffo, MD, associate professor of medicine in the University of Alabama Division of Rheumatology. in Birmingham, in a statement.
“Although folate intake in these cases is clearly indicated, clinicians should be cautious about excessive folate intake,” he said. “Of course, our results will need to be replicated.”
The investigators noted the limitations of the study, including that the results were limited to people aged 45 and over who are predominantly of white European ethnicity.
Another limitation included that the study did not look at individuals’ serum folate levels, and the investigators said further studies are needed to explore the impact of folate status and dietary intake. folic acid on susceptibility to COVID-19 infection and associated mortality.
The investigators also noted that it is important to avoid extremely high doses of folic acid unless medically indicated.
High folic acid supplementation associated with higher rates of COVID-19 infections and mortality, study finds. Press release. Science Daily. August 31, 2022. Accessed September 2, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220831131158.htm