Benefits of Folic Acid


Folic acid is a B vitamin that has proven beneficial in multiple different areas. This vitamin is naturally occurring as folates in oranges, beef extract, yeast, pulses, and leafy dark green vegetables. Conventional as well as integrative medical circles have accepted the research involving this vitamin and as such it is frequently included in public health measures. Folic acid is also recognized as a way to prevent neural tube defects and has been linked to preventing general birth defects.

Benefits of Folic Acid


As is the case with all B vitamins, folic acid is a factor in the body’s ability to metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into glucose which the body then burns to create energy. In particular, folic acid is considered essential for the nervous system and brain to function properly.

1. Prevent Neural Tube Defects

Multiple studies have shown that taking 400 micrograms or more of folic acid before conceiving can help prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects. Therefore any woman looking to conceive should take the vitamin in preparation. Although it is still helpful if you take folic acid while pregnant, it would be less effective than taking it beforehand. If you have previously had a child with these neural tube defects, then aim to take 4 mg daily as a further preventative measure.

2. Protect Against Several Diseases

  • Heart disease: Folate combines with vitamin B12 to work as a coenzyme which helps the metabolism of amino acids, such as methonine and homocysteine. If there isn’t enough folic acid, the homocysteine levels may increase leading to cardiovascular disease. Although they don’t prove that taking folic acid reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, studies do show that it can lower homocysteine levels.
  • Alzheimer's disease: In 2005, the University of California at Irvine did a study showing that taking enough folic acid could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Those over 60 who had 400 micrograms of folic acid via supplements and diet reduced their risk of the disease by over 50%. Additional studies also suggest folic acid helps prevent memory loss associated with old age.
  • Type-2 diabetes: It is also possible that folic acid increases the breakdown process of triglycerides, which are the chemical form of fat found in the blood, therefore helps to prevent type-2 diabetes and obesity. A study from 2008 was published in the European Journal of Endocrinology and found that four different groups of women with BMIs of at least 30 had low levels of this crucial vitamin.
  • Colon cancer: Research has also shown that folic acid can help prevent colon cancer. It is especially important for protecting those with ulcerative colitis as they are at a higher risk. Folic acid can also reduce the risk of cervical, pancreatic, stomach, and esophageal cancer.

3. Alleviate Depression

A deficiency of folic acid has also been linked to depression as the deficiency has been found in people who experience depression, and may contribute to a poor response to common antidepressant treatments. Due to this, experts enhance the treatment response for antidepressants via folate supplements. However, until more research is done, folic acid should not replace traditional therapy with antidepressants.

4. Benefits the Brain

Folic acid also has great benefits for the brain. When you have lower levels of folic acid, it may contribute to higher quantities of homocysteine. These higher levels are linked to macular degeneration, cervical cancer, blood vessel disease, osteoporosis, and stroke. Autistic researchers are also looking into oxidative stress and its relation to defects within the methylation pathway, of which folic acid plays a role.

5. Other Benefits

Additionally, folic acid helps the body with the process of breaking down, using, and creating new proteins. It can help with the formation of red blood cells as well as the creation of both DNA and RNA which are the body’s pieces of genetic material responsible for holding the code for any new cells. Folic acid is also part of the process of creating red blood cells as well as helping regulate how the body uses iron. The vitamin works together with vitamin B6 and vitamin b12 to control amino acid levels, specifically those of homocysteine. In the case of infertile men, folic acid may increase their sperm count and therefore increasing the consumption of folic acid can help to combat infertility.

How Much Folate Do You Need?

People who have a deficiency of folic acid may suffer from a range of issues including mental sluggishness, forgetfulness, diarrhea, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, tongue inflammation and poor growth. In the case of pregnant women, a deficiency of folic acid has been concretely linked to neural tube defects for their child at birth.

There are two main ways to get folate: either eating foods that naturally contain it or have been fortified with it or by taking supplements. At this time, experts haven’t found any harm associated with getting large quantities of folate from foods naturally instead of opting for supplements. The RDAs (recommended daily allowances) for folic acid are determined by a person’s age.

Age

Micrograms

1-3 years old

150

4-8 years old

200

9-13 years old

300

14-18 years old

400

Adults (older than 19 years old)

400

Pregnant women

600

Women who are breastfeeding

600

The following video will teach you everything you need to know about which foods are rich in folic acid in addition to how you should eat these foods to best obtain the folic acid: 

 
 
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