See Why You Need Folic Acid
Folic acid is a common vitamin that is usually part of almost all fortified foods and supplements. It’s a processed version of the common folate, a kind of vitamin B that exists in many foods. Since the body cannot produce folate naturally, and since the body needs folate to function properly, you need to get folate from diets or folic acid from supplements. Either way, your body needs a reasonable amount of folate to function properly.
People commonly use folate and folic acids interchangeably. Nevertheless, studies have revealed that these two compounds are different from each other in some ways, even though later is the product of the former. According to medical researchers, folic acid has a totally different biological effect on the body.
Folate is the natural version of itself that can be found in foods, and the following are food sources of folate;
On the other hand, folic acid, which is a man-made version of folate, can be found in dietary supplements. It can also be added to foods like already-made-breakfasts.
Why the Body Uses Folate
- The body uses folate to repair and synthesis dead cells and tissues.
- It also uses it for cellular division.
- The body uses folate to convert homocysteine to methionine. Methionine is a kind of amino acid majorly used for protein synthesis.
- The body also needs folate for the growth, development, and maturation of the body’s red blood cells.
Folate is one of those vitamins that are essential for metabolic processes, and its deficiency could spell harm for you. It could lead to various health issues by first exposing you to different forms of infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungus. Folate deficiency can increase your risks of developing heart disease, birth defects for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who lack enough folate as well as some kinds of cancer.
Folate Deficiency and Its Causes
People wonder every day what the causes of folate deficiency are. A number of factors have been identified to the cause of folate deficiency, and these factors include;
- Alcoholism; excess consumption of excess alcohol can drastically dry up your folate level.
- Pregnancy; this is precisely why pregnant women are advised to always consume folic acid to replace lost ones because they are at more risk of losing it. In addition, folate can also be called ‘the pregnancy vitamin.’
- Poor dietary intake; when your diet does not include folate food sources and when you do not include folic acid in your diet, there is no way you can have folate in your body since the body does not produce folate on its own.
- Hypochlorhydria and achlorhydria.
- Medications disrupt or slow down the absorption of folate.
- Illnesses and surgeries that affect and slow down the absorption of folic acid can also make you folate deficient.
- Hemolytic anemia.
Folate deficiency has become rampant, especially in pregnant women, and this is why most infants are birthed with defects. Eating folate food sources is just not enough when you are experiencing folate deficiency; combining your folate diet with folic acid-rich supplements and superfoods would help compliment your diet and eliminate the deficiency.
Symptoms of Folate Deficiency
- Discoloration of the skin
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mouth and tongue sores
Health Benefits of Folate
Folate or folic acid is an imperative vitamin for pregnancy. It helps with the prevention of pregnancy complications, neural tube defects, and birth defects like babies being born without some parts of their skull or brain. Since pregnant women are always at the risk of folate deficiency, it is important for them to source for it either in foods or in supplements. Dieticians have advised that women who intend to get pregnant in the future, as well as already-pregnant women, should at least consume about 400 to 800 mg of folic acid supplements or superfoods from at least 2 months before they get pregnant and 3 to 4 months into pregnancy. During antenatal, folate is prescribed for pregnant women in hospitals to prevent birth defects in their babies as well as pregnancy complications.
Folate and folic acid are used to treat people who lack folate in the body as a result of one or more of the aforementioned causes of folate deficiency. Folate deficiency can lead to various harmful effects like anemia, birth defects and pregnancy complications, depression, impaired immune system, and mental health.
Both folate and folic acid perform the same function in the promotion and enhancement of brain health. Folate deficiency leads to dementia and reduced pain function. Folate diet and folic acid supplements, and superfoods have been discovered to help improve and enhance the function of the brain and also play vital roles in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
People who undergo mental and psychological breakdowns or illnesses get folate as part of their prescription. This is because people who experience psychological illnesses like depression have been discovered to have a lesser level of folate in their blood. Including folate-rich foods in their diets, as well as complementing the diet and medications with folic acid supplements, would help reduce depressive symptoms in people who are depressed. Research showed that people who used folic acid supplements with antidepressants experienced a faster recovery process.
Folate is associated with the reduction of heart-related illness risks. Having a reasonably high and moderate amount of blood folate level can help reduce the risk of developing heart diseases. It can also help reduce blood pressure which is a major pointer to heart disease.
Other Folate Benefits
- Diabetes; folate helps regulate blood sugar levels. It prevents diabetes and hypoglycemia due to its blood sugar regulation strength. In addition, it improves cardiovascular function in diabetes patients and as well reduces complications of diabetes and insulin.
- Fertility; folate helps improve the quality of fertility and reproduction organs and tissues. Folate also helps women who are undergoing technology-associated pregnancies and births like IVF carry and birth babies successfully.
- Inflammation; folate helps reduce inflammatory markers, especially in people who are epileptic.
- Folate helps to reduce the impact of side effects of certain medications, like the ones that are used to treat certain cancers.
- Kidney; folate is effective in lowering kidney disease risks.
Recommended Folic Acid Dosage
Ages 0- 6 months; 64 mcg
Ages 7-12 months; 80 mcg
Ages 1-3 years 300 mcg
Ages 4-8 years; 400mcg
Ages 9-13; 600mcg
Ages 14-18; 800 mcg
Ages 18 and above; 1,000 mcg
Folate Food Sources
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Green peas
- Citrus fruits
- Black-eyed peas
- Kidney beans
- Boiled eggs
- Tomato juice
- Dungeness crab
Folic acid has high interaction tendencies with other medications; thus, it is important to consume it with caution while on certain medications. Or better still, you can speak to your doctor about it.
Some drugs that folic acid supplements interact with include;
- Certain cancer and autoimmune medications like methotrexate
- Epilepsy medications; folate interferes with the function of epilepsy medications.
In addition, seek the doctor’s advice if you have any of the following health conditions and want to use folic acid supplements.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Celiac disease
- Kidney dialysis
Risks of Excessive Intake of Folic Acid
- Increased cancer risks; people who consume folic acid in excess amounts tend to have high risks of developing certain cancers like prostate cancer in men.
- Immune system; excessive folic acid can lead to the malfunctioning of the immune system. The effect of excess folic acid involves the suppression of the immune system and its functions.
- Mental and psychological health decline; adults who have high folic acid content in their blood tend to experience a high decline in their mental, cognitive and psychological health.
Folate supplements should firstly be kept out of the reach of children to avoid an overdose. Also, they should be stored in cool and dry places. Supplements should not be kept in environments that are moist or humid.
In summary, folic acid is the man-made version of folate. Both perform similar functions but are different in few ways. Folate is a class of vitamin B that is essential for the proper functioning of the body, as well as a healthy metabolic process. Despite its numerous benefits, excessive and prolonged usage of it can come with grave side effects. Sticking to the recommended dosage of daily intake would help reduce the risks of folate toxicity.