Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin. It stays in the body for a short time. It is also called vitamin B9 or Folacin and Folate.
Folic acid is especially important for women who are pregnant. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in developing fetuses. Folic acid may also prevent cleft lip and palate. But what you might not know is that you have to take folic acid and have it in your system at optimal level BEFORE you get pregnant. That's because most neural tube defects occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Because many women don't even know they're pregnant in the early weeks of pregnancy, it can be too late to correct any deficiencies by the time you know you're pregnant.
So get enough folic acid in your diet NOW if you are a woman of childbearing age, and you are planning to become pregnant to avoid these problems. It's also a good idea, by the way, to take folic acid even if you're not planning to get pregnant but you are of childbearing age, since many pregnancies are unplanned.
Although deficiency in regard to folate is most often talked about for pregnant women, folate is an essential nutrient for anyone, even if you're not a woman of childbearing age. Folate is important in the development of healthy new cells.
It's so essential in fetal development because, of course, new cells are growing and dividing rapidly at that point, but that's something that happens for everyone, young and old. So for essential cell development and optimal health, everyone needs to make sure they have enough folate in their diets.
Diseases that may occur because of or may be related to folic acid deficiency are:
Depression has been found in people with low levels of folate. And it is also possible that bipolar disorder can at least in part be caused by inadequate folate intake. Therefore, one of the benefits of folic acid is that it may avoid depression.
Folic acid helps to lower homocysteine levels, which can help with heart health. High homocysteine levels can impair blood vessel function, which can make arteries vulnerable to plaque formation.
Low levels of folate may also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease, and to the rapidity of its progression.
Other symptoms of folic acid deficiency. So one of the other benefits of folic acid is it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer.
Because it is essential to the development of red blood cells, inadequate levels of folic acid may lead one to develop anemia. Excessive or unwarranted anxiety may also be a problem for those who have inadequate levels of folic acid intake.
Folic acid itself is not toxic and has not been shown to have detrimental effects even in very high doses. However, it's not recommended that you take more than about 1000 mcg a day. If you take large amounts of folic acid, it may actually hide another rare deficiency, pernicious anemia, and hinder its diagnosis. Pernicious anemia is caused by B12 deficiency. Folic acid can "mask" pernicious anemia symptoms if taken in amounts that are too high.
How much folic acid should you take? Recommended dosages have changed as the medical community has learned more about this important supplement, but current guidelines recommend that you get about 400 mcg a day. This is easy to do, since that's the amount included in most multivitamin supplements, and it's also included in many fortified cereals and other foods.
You can gain the benefits of folic acid from food. Foods that contain vitamin B9 are green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce, brown rice, fortified bread and breakfast cereals. Other food sources are chicken giblets, eggs, fruits and legumes. But since most foods are processed or cooked, most of the nutrients are lost. And some people don't like foods that contain vitamin B9. Furthermore folic acid stays in the body for a short time. So the alternative is to take folic acid supplements.
This information on the benefits of folic acid is educational and it is not intended to replace standard medical care or advice. If you have a medical condition, please consult a physician.