Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin. It is the synthetic form of folate also known as vitamin B9. The body doesn’t store very much of it, as it is water soluble so it needs to be consumed daily. It does not occur naturally in food.
A synthetic form of folic acid is used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Folic acid helps the body in a number of ways, mainly produce and maintain new cells. According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), folic acid is vital for making red blood cells, as well as the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA, aiding rapid cell division and growth, and enhancing brain health.
Birth defects occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Your baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing in these weeks of pregnancy. So it’s important to have folate during these days.
It is particularly important for women who are pregnant to consume enough folic acid. This helps prevent the fetus from developing major congenital deformities of the brain or spine, including neural tube defects, such as spinal bifida and anencephaly.
If you are planning to get pregnant you should take folic acid supplements for a full year before conception to reduce the risk of these developments (after consulting your doctor).
Folic acid has also been suggested to reduce your risk of Neural tube defects, Heart disease, Stroke, Some types of cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a literature review carried out in 2014 concluded that folic acid supplementation might reduce the risk of a cleft palate.
Folic acid is often used to support a methotrexate prescription for rheumatoid arthritis.
Neural tube defects in infants, such as malformations of the brain, spine and/or spinal cord are linked to low folate levels during the way weeks of pregnancy. Women who supplement with folate before and throughout pregnancy give birth to a child with significantly lower rates of these defects.
Reduced Homocysteine Levels
Folate helps lower homocysteine levels because it’s required in the process of converting homocysteine into another molecule called methionine. Homocysteine, an inflammatory molecule linked to the development of heart disease. Without enough folate, this conversion slows down and homocysteine levels rise.
Folic acid deficiency occurs when not enough folate or folic acid is present in the body.
Folic acid deficiency can result in health problems, including:
Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood
Megaloblastic anemia, a type of anemia with enlarged red blood cells
A higher risk of potentially developing allergic diseases
A lower bone density
Sores around the mouth
Memory and cognition difficulties
Loss of appetite
Folate deficiency can be tested by measuring the amount of folate stored within your red blood cells or circulating in your blood.
Side effects As folic acid is water-soluble, any excess will be naturally passed in urine and if a person takes more folate than needed, there is no cause for concern. In rare cases, individuals report an upset stomach.
Sources: Dark green vegetables are good sources of folic acid. Do not overcook them, as the folic acid content is sensitive to heat.
|Foods which are known to be rich in folic acid:|
|asparagus||liver (although women should not consume this during pregnancy)|
|baker’s yeast||Fruits like papaya, kiwi, and raspberries|
|egg yolk||Turnip greens|
|Foods that are often fortified or enriched with folic acid include:|
It is always better to get nutrients from natural food sources rather than supplements.