Prenatal Folic Acid and Risk of Asthma in Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;98(5):1272-81. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.065623. Epub 2013 Sep 4.


Background: Childhood asthma has become a critical public health problem because of its high morbidity and increasing prevalence. The impact of nutrition and other exposures during pregnancy on long-term health and development of children has been of increasing interest.

Objective: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association of folate and folic acid intake during pregnancy and risk of asthma and other allergic outcomes in children.

Design: We performed a systematic search of 8 electronic databases for articles that examined the association between prenatal folate or folic acid exposure and risk of asthma and other allergic outcomes (eg, allergy, eczema, and atopic dermatitis) in childhood. We performed a meta-analysis by using a random-effects model to derive a summary risk estimate of studies with similar exposure timing, exposure assessment, and outcomes.

Results: Our meta-analysis provided no evidence of an association between maternal folic acid supplement use (compared with no use) in the prepregnancy period through the first trimester and asthma in childhood (summary risk estimate: 1.01; 95% CI: 0.78, 1.30). Because of substantial heterogeneity in exposures and outcomes, it was not possible to generate summary measures for other folate indicators (eg, blood folate concentrations) and asthma or allergy-related outcomes; however, the preponderance of primary risk estimates was not elevated.

Conclusions: Our findings do not support an association between periconceptional folic acid supplementation and increased risk of asthma in children. However, because of the limited number and types of studies in the literature, additional research is needed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Databases, Factual
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Eczema / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Folic Acid / adverse effects*
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


  • Folic Acid