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Ear Health Linked to Folic Acid Serum Levels

A new research found out that low levels of folic acid in the blood is linked to age-related hearing loss in the elderly.

A common fact of life is this:  Ageing is inevitable. As a person gets older, the body undergoes changes as well – the skin starts to sag; vision may deteriorate with cataracts or age-related macular degeneration;  the sense of taste is affected, making everything seem to bland; joints become painful causing difficulty in moving about; cognitive skills may go downhill and hearing is less accurate.  These are just some of the examples of conditions associated with ageing, and there are many more left out.  Because of these changes, the person’s quality of life may greatly suffer.  The person starts to lose his much-valued independence especially in doing activities of daily living.  As such, his quality of life is compromised.

The loss of hearing is one of the major health concerns which have affected the public all over the world.  In fact, just in the United States alone, greater than 28 million Americans, whose ages are between 60 and 75, are diagnosed with age-related hearing loss – and they have no other choice but to deal with their loss.  However, even though the prevalence of impaired hearing is high, the organic basis of age-related hearing loss remains to be unknown.

The Link between Age-Related Hearing Loss and Folic Acid

A recent study was conducted in order to help find the answers regarding age-related hearing loss (ARHL). In the study, 126 Nigerian women and men ages 60 years old and above, were asked to participate in the study where they were interviewed face-to-face by a group of researchers and were then asked to undergo examination conducted by physicians.  All 126 participants had no known health conditions during the study and those who were discovered to have a history of ear surgery, ear trauma, ear infections, ear diseases, hypertension, stroke and diabetes were excluded from the study. Participants who were also exposed to ototoxic drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics and aminoglycosides, and those who had prolonged exposure to noise, were exempted from participating.

The author of the study, Akeem Olawale Lasisi, MBChB, FWACS, FMCORL, said that the findings of their study showed that low levels of folic acid present in an elderly person’s serum is significantly linked to high frequency hearing loss.  Low serum levels of folic acid are expected from the study population because they do not get enough medical attention than they deserve, according to the authors.  There is a need, therefore, to conduct more studies regarding the role that vitamins play when it comes to auditory function, especially in developing countries where there is a widespread case of malnutrition. The result of the study was published in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery’s December 2010 issue.

The authors emphasized that folate’s role in the functions of the vascular system, the nervous system and in cellular metabolism are essential in order for the auditory system to function well.

What is Folate?

Folate, otherwise known as vitamin B9, is a form of vitamin that is naturally found in some forms of food.  Before we all get confused about which term to use, here is one differentiating factor: Folate is naturally-made, while folic acid is synthetic, or man-made.  Folic acid is the one that is contained in supplements. The difference between the two, however, does not end here.  The body uses folate and folic acid differently in such a way that the body only uses and absorbs SOME of the folate, while it COMPLETELY uses and absorbs folic acid.

What does Folate, and Folic Acid, do?

Folate, and folic acid, is important inside the body.  It is involved in several physiological processes that helps maintain good health.

  • For one, it helps in the production and the maintenance of new cells.  This is significantly valuable in periods where rapid cell division and cell growth occurs such as pregnancy and infancy. Physicians are constantly emphasizing the need for pregnant women to consume folic acid since this helps prevent congenital birth defects such as cleft lip, cleft palate, Spina Bifida and other defects of the neural tube.
  • Another important function of folate is that it is needed in order to create the building blocks of cells known as DNA and RNA.  It is also essential in preventing DNA changes that may result to the development of cancer such as cancers of the cervix, colon and lungs.
  • Children and adults alike require folate in order to produce normal and healthy red blood cells thereby preventing anemia.
  • In addition, folate is vital for homocysteine metabolism, degradation and elimination.  Homocysteine is an amino acid that is present in the blood and is said to be toxic.   High level of homocysteine is a risk factor for peripheral vascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease. The absence, or the lack of, folate may significantly increase the person’s risk for developing such medical conditions.
  • Folic acid is also important in promoting and maintaining brain health, helping enhance a person’s mental and cognitive skills.
  • It is also said to help promote healthier skin.
  • Folic acid helps improve appetite and is also responsible for stimulation the production of essential stomach acids that helps with digestion.  It also helps maintain good liver health, protects the intestines from parasites, and helps prevent food poisoning.

Dietary sources of Folic Acid

Aside from taking folic acid supplements, eating certain types of food may also help improve the levels of folic acid inside the body.  The good news is that, you do not have to look long and hard in order to find these foods since they can be found at your local grocer’s shop.  All you have to do is to choose carefully and then you may start eating your way to good health.

Here are some of the foods that are considered to be rich sources of folic acid:

  • Beef liver
  • Cowpeas
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat germ
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomato juice
  • Turnip greens
  • Eggs
  • Cantaloupe
  • Raw papaya
  • Raw banana

Sources
wordconstructions.com
vitamins-supplements.org
ods.od.nih.gov
eurekalert.org

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  1. Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12 Play An Essential Role In Brain Function, Study Concludes
  2. Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Expecting Mothers Linked to Heart Defects In Newborns, Study Says
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Found Beneficial for Heart Health, Researchers Conclude
  4. Sleeplessness Linked To Even More Health Risks
  5. Risks of Vitamin B Deficiency
  


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