Folate Intake Linked to Academic Achievement

According to a new study, adolescents who consume high quantities of folate in their diets may have increased academic success.

Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin, while folate occurs naturally in some foods. Sources include leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce, and fruits such as bananas and melons.

Research has shown that folic acid supplementation reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood. High homocysteine blood levels are considered a cardiovascular risk factor. Supplementation may also be effective in reducing symptoms of folate deficiency. Additionally, research suggests that folate supplementation during pregnancy may prevent anemia in pregnant women and reduce the risk of complications such as birth defects.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data for 386 15 year-old Swedish individuals. Homocysteine blood levels and dietary folate intake were measured for each participant. Academic achievement was measured through course grades from ten academic subjects. Other potential factors such as socioeconomic status were also assessed.

The researchers found that academic achievement was significantly associated with high dietary folate intake and low homocysteine blood levels. When controlled for, only folate intake presented a significant association to academic achievement.

The authors concluded that additional research evaluating folate intake throughout childhood and adolescence is warranted to further understand these findings.

Torbjorn K. Nilsson, MD, PhD, Agneta Yngve, PhD, Anna K. Bottiger, PhD, Anita Hurtig-Wennlof, PhD, Michael Sjostrom, MD, PhD, “High Folate Intake Is Related to Better Academic Achievement in Swedish Adolescents.” Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, July 11, 2011 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-1481).

Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2011.