High folic acid supplementation associated with higher rates of COVID-19 infections and mortality, study finds: Findings from new study could have implications for patients prescribed high doses of folic acid

People in the United Kingdom with folic acid prescriptions were 1.5 times more likely to get COVID-19. They were also 2.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to the control group. Those are the findings of a new study from UC Davis Health and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, also found that having a prescription for the antifolate drug methotrexate mitigated the negative impact of folic acid on COVID-19 when folic acid and methotrexate were given together.

The research team studied a large cohort of patients enrolled in the UK BioBank, a major biomedical database containing health information from half a million people.

“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,” said Ralph Green, an expert on B vitamins. Green is a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and co-senior author of the study.

Folic acid and COVID-19

Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as folate. Low levels of B9 are associated with health conditions such as an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and birth defects.

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