Why Do We Need Folic Acid – Benefits, Sources & Functions

Why Do We Need Folic AcidFolic acid (Vitamin B9) belong to B vitamin complex, and is water soluble vitamin. It doesn’t stay too long in the body and it need to be regularly entered.

In use are terms folic acid and folate. Folic acid rarely occurs in food or in the human body, but as a stable form of vitamin is most common in supplements and foods enriched in vitamins. Folate is found in foods, as well as in metabolically active forms of the human body.

Functions of  folic acid

Folic acid is very important in the construction of DNA and RNA and participate in every process in the body that require cell division (especially in pregnancy and subsequent growth and development of the child). Along with vitamins B6 and B12 participates in the creation of red blood cells and reduce high levels of blood homocysteine​​, an amino acid that is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Taking supplements of folic acid is useful in the treatment of gout and irritable bowel syndrome.

It also helps in the prevention of breast cancer, cervical, lung, pancreas, colon and rectum. Eating fruits and vegetables at least five times a day can reduce the risk of contracting the disease.

Depressed people often have a deficiency of folic acid. Taking supplements of folic acid reduces the level of homocysteine​​, which is associated with depression. Supplements also enhance the effects of anti-depressants.

Folic Acid in Pregnancy

Folic acid plays an important role in the development of the child from the moment of conception. Therefore, it is very important for pregnant women to have adequate supplies of folic acid in the body during the first three months of pregnancy, even before the moment of conception.

An appropriate amount of folic acid in this period greatly reduces the risk of serious defects in the newborn, as well as damage to neural tube – which arises from the structure of the central nervous system. The result of neural tube defects can be anencefalia or spina bifida (the most common cause of child paralysis).

This vitamin can prevent some other types of defects, such as some heart defects and improperly developed limbs. Increased risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight are also associated with an insufficient amount of folic acid during pregnancy. High levels of homocysteine ​​in the blood due to lack of folic acid is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure, swelling of hands and feet, the excretion of protein in the urine) and premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall .

Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, as a complement to the recommended dose of 200 mcg, which is entered through food. Entering additional amount of folic acid is desirable for the entire duration of the pregnancy in order to avoid possible complications.

Recommended daily dose of folic acid

Age micrograms per day
newborns 0-6 months 65
newborns 7-12 months 80
children 1-3 years 150
children 4-8 years 200
children 9-13 years 300
Adolescents 14-18 years 400
Adults 19 years and older 400
pregnant all ages 600
Breastfeeding mothers all ages 500

Folic acid can be taken with meals or on an empty stomach and at any time of the day. With a supplement of folic acid should be taken as a supplement 1,000 mg of vitamin B12 to prevent deficiency of this vitamin.

Folic acid deficiency

The vast majority of people don’t get enough folate from food, so a slight deficiencies are very common. They don’t cause any symptoms, but increases the risk of heart disease and defects in newborns. Severe deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia which progress resulting weakness and shortness of breath (type of anemia in which there is enlargement of red blood cells and reduce their number), diarrhea, delayed growth and development of children.

Subject of serious lack of folic acid are аlcoholics, people who have poor absorption of nutrients (who suffer from celiac disease, Crohn’s disease), and people that take certain medications (anti-cancer or epilepsy).

Folic acid overdose

Large doses of folic acid can mask vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to irreversible nerve damage. Such nerve damage due to the lack of vitamin B12 were observed mainly in the use of folic acid in doses of 5000 mcg (5 mg) and higher. To prevent permanent nerve damage in people with vitamin B12 deficiency, it is recommended that adults limit the total daily intake of folic acid to 1,000 mcg (1 mg) per day.

Although folate entered through food may reduce the risk of morbidity from cancer, high-dose of folic acid can accelerate the growth of tumors in diseased.

Sources of folic acid – in which ingredients are the folates?

Natural sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, spinach, asparagus (Asparagus), beans, soy, whole grain cereal, orange juice. Cereals can also be enriched with folic acid.

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