Interesting Facts About Folic Acid
- Folic acid is also Vitamin B that is used for DNA Synthesis.
- Folic acid reduces risk of stroke, cancer, and heart diseases.
- Folic acid is essential for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in foetus.
- High doses of folic acid can complicate existing Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Folic acid or folate is nothing but Vitamin B9 that plays a very important role in our body. It is important for cell growth, and brain development. It is also crucial for cell division and helps in the manufacturing of DNA. Before we understand the folic acid benefits, it is first important to know what is folic acid and its dietary sources.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps the body maintain and produce new cells. It plays a major role in DNA repair and known to reduce the risk of many diseases. Folic acid is very important for pregnant women as it prevents neural tube defects in the developing foetus.
Dietary Sources of Folic Acid
|Food||Folic Acid Content in mcg|
|Spinach (1 cup cooked)||230 mcg|
|Papaya (medium sized)||116 mcg|
|Avocados (1 no)||81 mcg|
|Red Bell Peppers||55 mcg|
|Lentils (1/2 cup cooked)||180 mcg|
|Mushrooms (1 cup cooked)||15 mcg|
|Black eyed peas (1/2 cup)||61 mcg|
|Asparagus boiled||89 mcg|
|Oranges (1 no)||39 mcg|
|Artichokes cooked||107 mcg|
Other sources of folic acid include
- Citrus fruits
- Fortified cereals
- Meat and fish
- Wheat Bran
- Dark green leafy vegetables
Folic Acid Deficiency
The inadequate folic acid in the body or Folic acid deficiency is a common phenomenon in many individuals. Some of the common symptoms of this deficiency are-
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth and peptic ulcers
- Greying of hair
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Poor growth
- Swollen tongue
- Pale Skin
- Diarrhea and constipation
Common Reasons of Folic Acid Deficiency
In most cases folic acid deficiency can be caused due to several factors some of them being.
1. Improper Diet
One of the most common factors for deficiency is an imbalanced diet. Not having a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause the deficiency of folic acid. Sometimes over cooking can also destroy folic acid content in food.
Some medications like phenytoin, sulfamethoxazole, and sulfasalazine cause deficiency of folic acid.
3. Oral Contraceptive Pills
Taking oral contraceptive pills also known to be a common reason for the deficiency. Research suggests that oral contraceptives interfere with the absorption of folic acid.
4. Excess Alcohol Intake
Alcohol reduces folic acid absorption and excretes more of folic acid through the urine.
Certain ailments like Celiac Disease and Crohn’s Disease reduce the folic acid absorption in the intestinal tract. This causes severe deficiency of folate or folic acid.
Folic Acid Benefits For Health
Now that you know the list of foods rich in folic acid, it is important to understand the benefits of folic acid on our health.
1.Important During Pregnancy
One of the major folic acid benefits in pregnancy is that it protects both the mother and the developing foetus. This one of the best folic acid benefits for women. Folic acid is also used in women who are trying to conceive and is often given as a supplement for pre-conception. Pregnant women must take folic acid throughout their pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in the developing baby.
The recommended dosage of folic acid is as follows.
- 400mcg per day for women trying to conceive.
- 400mcg per day for pregnant women in the first trimester.
- 600mcg per day for pregnant women between fourth to ninth month of pregnancy.
- 500mcg per day for breastfeeding mothers.
Folate deficiency in pregnant women can cause low birth weight, miscarriage, poor growth of foetus, Cleft Lip, and Palate.
You may be surprised to know that folic acid plays an important role in treating mood disorders. One of the best benefits of folic acid is that it is used to treat depression and enhanced mood. Sufficient folic acid is required for the brain to function properly.
3. Reduces Heart Diseases
If you are wondering what is folic acid good for, then your answer is that it is good for heart health. Blood clots and thick blood vessels contribute to several cardiovascular diseases. Folic acid reduces blood clots and clears up the blood vessels to enable free flow of blood. This reduces the chances of heart attacks and strokes.
4. Treats Alzheimer’s Disease
Folic acid is known to be a wonder drug for treating Alzheimer’s. Folic acid helps reducing memory loss that occurs during aging and helps to treat minor symptoms of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Treats Diabetes
Folic acid is also known to be a fat cutter. Hence, regular supplementation of folic acid reduces fat deposits and helps to prevent obesity which in turn helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
6. Reduces Acne
If you are curious about what are the folic acid benefits for the skin, then you must know that folic acid is extremely beneficial in treating acne. Folic acid combines with other antioxidants in the body and help clears dead cells and toxins from the body. Effective removal of dead skin cells in turns treats and reduces the recurrence of acne.
7. Promotes Hair Growth
We all know that folic acid or folate deficiency causes premature graying of hair. Folic acid renews hair cells and improves blood circulation in the scalp. Hence, this aids in the growth of hair.
8. Treats Anemia
The benefits of folic acid extend to treating people suffering from the condition Anemia. Anemia is a common condition occurring in almost every individual now. This condition is characterized by reduced blood cells in the body. Some of the common symptoms of Anemia include fatigue, difficulty in breathing, headaches, chest pain, and palpitations. Folic acid or folate combines with Vitamin B12 and helps in the formation of RBC’s. Adequate intake of folic acid supplements restore back the supply of RBC and make enough blood pumping through the blood vessels.
9. Treats Menstruation
During menstruation, women lose a lot of blood. This makes you deficient of folic acid leading to exhaustion and weakness. Consuming foods rich in folic acid help treat these conditions and prevents fatigue.
10. Improves Male Fertility
You may be surprised to know that folic acid benefits men as well. Folic acid plays a major role in male fertility. It is not only important for preconception and pregnant women but also crucial for dads-to-be. Folic acid consumption improves sperm count and motility. Doctors advise men who want to become fathers also to take folic acid supplements regularly.
11. Treats Gum Infections
One of the wonderful folic acid benefits is that it treats and cures gum infections. Folic acid can be directly applied on infected gum for speeding recovery.
12. Prevents Cancer
If the question arises what is folic acid good for, then the first answer that comes is that folic acid prevents the risk of cancer. Folic acid prevents the cancer cells from multiplying. Folic acid supplements prevent colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and cervical cancer.
13. Aids Digestion
14. Healthy Skin
Apart from its numerous folic acid benefits for health, it is also essential for your skin. Consuming folic acid gives the skin a moisturized, healthy, and natural glow.
15. Anti-aging Properties
Folic acid is popularly known for its anti-ageing properties. It reduces fine lines and wrinkles on the skin thereby increasing the firmness of the skin. It also slows down the aging process in the skin cells.
16. Reduces Risk of Stroke
Homocysteine in the body increases vessel damage and causes blood clotting. This can lead to a high chance of stroke. One of the best folic acid benefits is that it repairs blood vessel damage and remove clots in the blood. Hence taking supplements of folic acid is highly recommended for reducing stroke.
17. Encourages Normal Cholesterol Levels
Folic acid is known to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol in the body. Regular supplementation of folic acid reduces homocysteine levels in the body and encourage good cholesterol in the body.
18. Perinatal Mood Management
Folic acid plays a major role in perinatal mood management. Perinatal depression is common in children. It is not advisable to prescribe drugs to children due to it’s side effects. Folic acid is known to create and absorb neurotransmitters which improve mood in children.
19. Good for Colon Health
If you are wondering what is folic acid good for, folic acid is an excellent therapy for good colon health. Folic acid activates genes and reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Regular intake of folic acid is good for colon health.
20. Reduces Dementia
Research suggests that there is a major link between neural health and folic acid. People suffering from dementia have very low folate levels and very high homocysteine levels in the blood. Taking supplements of folic acid reduces homocysteine concentration and treats dementia.
Diagnosis of Folic Acid or Folate Deficiency
Folic acid is extremely crucial for the production of red blood cells. The Severe case of deficiency may lead to megaloblastic anemia which is a condition where the red blood cells are not fully developed and appear larger than normal size. Low levels of folic acid can also lead to low platelet count and white blood cells. Developing foetus in the womb can also cause severe defects in the spinal cord and brain.
The diagnosis of folic acid deficiency is simple and is usually done through a blood test. These tests are generally recommended if normal adults face deficiency symptoms. Otherwise, in pregnant women, these tests are done routinely to check the folate levels in the blood.
Prevention and Treatment of Folic acid or folate Deficiency
Prevention and treatment of folic acid or folate deficiency can be done by dietary and supplement intake of folic acid. Vitamin B complex is usually prescribed to normal adults as a folic acid supplement. For pregnant women, dosages of folic acid vary in each trimester. A proper nutritious diet rich in folic acid is advised to treat and prevent folic acid and folate deficiency.
Folic Acid Overdose Side Effects
So now that we know the folic acid benefits, it is also important to understand the side effects on overdose. Folic acid is a water soluble vitamin. If excess folic acid is present in the body, it is flushed out through the stool and urine. Overconsumption of folic acid can have severe side effects some of which include-
- Digestive problems like gas and nausea
- Lack of concentration
- Numbness in the mouth and tongue
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Rashes on the skin
- Unregulated eating and appetite
- Zinc deficiency
- Psychotic behaviours
Difference Between Folic Acid and Folate
Do you know the difference between folate vs folic acid? Folic acid and folate are different variants of Vitamin B9. Understanding the differences is very important as they have different interactions in our body.
Folate is nothing but Vitamin B9 that occurs naturally. It promotes cell growth and DNA synthesis in our body. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause serious implications. Hence supplementing our body with this vitamin is essential.
A folic acid is a synthetic form of B9 which is also called as pteroylmonoglutamic acid. It is used in supplements, fortified and processed food like cereals and flour.
Tips For Consumption Of Folic Acid
- Avoid consuming folic acid in excess amounts.
- Consume supplements only on advice of doctor.
- Avoid taking alcohol while consuming folic acid, as alcohol interferes with the absorption of folic acid in the body.
- Birth control pills interfere with the mechanism of folic acid in the body.
Now that you know the benefits and side effects of folate or folic acid in the body, it is essential to maintain the right balance. A nutritious diet containing all the essential vitamins and minerals will ensure that your body is getting sufficient folate that it requires for the body. In additional circumstances like pregnancy, women are advised to take an extra supplement of folic acid for the proper development of the foetus. Ensure you have sufficient enough of the folate vitamin to ward of any kind of disease or deficiency.