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B Vitamins May Help Your Hearing

The B vitamins folate and folic acid may reduce the risk of developing hearing loss among men, according to findings presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundations (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting in San Diego on October 4-7.

Folate and folic acid are forms of a B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in foods and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin that is found in fortified foods and supplements.

Hearing loss affects over 36 million people in the United States alone, making it the most common sensory disorder in the Western World.

Boston-based researchers analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study conducted from 1986-2004. The study included over 50,000 men, making it the largest study ever to look into the relationship between diet and hearing loss.

The men were enrolled in the study in 1986. They filled out detailed health and diet questionnaires every other year until 2004. During that time period, 3,559 of the participants were diagnosed with hearing loss.

The researchers found that men over 60 with the highest folate and folic acid intakes from foods and vitamins had a 20% reduced risk of hearing loss compared to those with the lowest intakes.

Foods like spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, lettuces, dried or fresh beans and peas, fortified cereal products and sunflower seeds contain high levels of folate.

Beyond its potential for warding off hearing loss, folate has also been shown to reduce the risk of birth defects and stroke, and may even help modulate your mood.

Folate is a water soluble vitamin, which means the folate in foods can easily be lost if the food is not cooked and stored correctly.

Here are few helpful tips for maximizing your folate consumption:

• Boil vegetables in a small amount of water and do not overcook

• Steam, microwave or stir-fry vegetables instead of boiling

• Refrigerate fruits and vegetables

• Consume fruits and vegetables soon after purchase because folate is lost from foods over time

• Take a folate supplement

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