Is Folate Status a Risk Factor for Asthma or Other Allergic Diseases?

Purpose

It is controversial whether folate status is a risk factor for the development of asthma or other allergic diseases. This study was conducted to investigate whether indirect or direct exposure to folate and impaired folate metabolism, reflected as methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T polymorphism, would contribute to the development of asthma and other allergic diseases.

Methods

Electronic databases were searched to identify all studies assessing the association between folate status and asthma or other allergic diseases. Two reviewers independently assessed the eligibility of studies and extracted data. The relative risk (RR) or odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) was calculated and pooled.

Results

Twenty-six studies (16 cohort, 7 case-control, and 3 cross-sectional studies) were identified. Maternal folic acid supplementation was not associated with the development of asthma, atopic dermatitis (AD), eczema, and sensitization in the offspring, whereas exposure during early pregnancy was related to wheeze occurrence in the offspring (RR=1.06, 95% CI=[1.02-1.09]). The TT genotype of MTHFR C677T polymorphism was at high risk of asthma (OR=1.41, 95% CI=[1.07-1.86]).

Conclusions

It is indicated that maternal folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy may increase the risk of wheeze in early childhood and that the TT genotype of MTHFR C677T polymorphism impairing folic acid metabolism would be at high risk of asthma development. These results might provide additional information for recommendations regarding forced folate consumption or folic acid supplements during pregnancy based on its well-established benefits for the prevention of congenital malformations. However, currently available evidence is of low quality which is needed to further elucidate.