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Folic acid linked to teen school grades

12th July 2011

Teenagers whose diet includes higher-than-normal levels of folic acid seem to do best in school, according to a recent Swedish study.

Teenager1

Although scientists already knew that folic acid played a determining role in the brain development of children, they were not sure whether or not folic acid played a role in teenage academic performance.

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the B vitamins.

In the body, folic acid plays a key role in DNA and RNA synthesis and DNA repair, allowing the body to grow new cells as well as to protect itself against DNA mutation.

Certain birth defects in the spine and brain, such as spina bifida, can come about if pregnant mothers-to-be are low on folic acid.

In elderly people, folate also seems tied to mental ability, and low levels of folate seem to go hand in hand with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

For the study, the researchers looked at folic acid levels in nearly 400 teenagers, all of whom were about 15 years old.

After accounting for usual predicting factors, such as socioeconomic status, the researchers found that teenagers who had the highest levels of folic acid still had the highest grades.

The researchers could not find any other explanation for the correlation.

The researchers wrote that parents should keep a closer watch on folate status in childhood and adolescence.

They wrote that their finding would have implications for school meal plans.

Dried beans, peas, nuts and fruits all contain higher-than-average levels of folate.

Green leafy vegetables are another source of folate, and the name 'folate' derives from folium, the Latin word for 'leaf.'

Marmite contains high levels of folic acid, and it was used during the 1930s to study the effects of folate.

Some breakfast cereals are also enriched with folate.

Daniel Armstrong, associate chair of paediatrics at the University of Miami in the US, who was not involved in the study, said that folic acid deficiencies may also be involved in the development of autistic traits.

He said that a folate-rich diet might be important at all stages of life, and that although there was not currently a clear scientific consensus, it would not do people any harm to get more folate.

 

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