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Everyone, including children, needs folic acid in order to create healthy red blood cells as well as avoid anemia. Both folic acid and folate get their name from the Latin word for “leaf,” which is folium. Vegetables of the leafy variety as well as cereals and bread that are fortified are a primary source of folic acid.
Folic acid is also known as vitamin BC, folacin, and vitamin B9. Alone, folic is not active biologically. However, when combined with tetrahydrofolate, it converts to dihydrofolic acid in the liver, which is important.
Numerous functions of the body rely on folic acid and folate. Folate is a necessary ingredient when synthesizing, repairing, or methylating DNA. It is very important for cell functions as well, especially cell division and cell growth. Folic acid supplements are commonly used during pregnancy, but have other uses too.
A folate deficiency is caused by a lack of folic acid in the diet. Such a deficiency can cause numerous health problems, including defects in developing unborn embryos. In addition, DNA repair and synthesis are hindered by this deficiency, and this can lead to the development of cancerous cells.
Folic acid is credited with preventing physical deformities from diseases, particularly in the fetal development. Also, folic acid can be used in the treatment of:
Studies show that adding such micronutrients, as folic acid, to underdeveloped supplies of food in foreign countries can be more effective than any other type of assistance when attempting to improve the health of the world population.
Certain specific foods tend to be higher in folate than others. These include egg yolks, baker's yeast, liver and kidney products, legumes (lentils, beans, peas, etc.), fortified bread items, sunflower seeds, and leafy vegetables (asparagus, spinach, turnip greens, etc.). Other foods contain moderate amounts of folate. These foods include fruits such as melon, pineapple, and oranges, as well as bananas, citrus fruits, and some kinds of berries. In addition, vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets, corn, and tomatoes contain various quantities of folate.
Folic acid impacts fertility in both men and women. After conception, it is critical to the development of the fetus.
According to the U.S Public Health Service, it is recommended that pregnant women consume an extra 0.4 mg of folic acid per day, which can be taken in pill form. There are many researchers, however, who believe that this would never work, since at least half of all pregnancies in the United States tend to be unplanned and not all women follow this recommendation.
Broken down into percentages, about 53% take dietary supplements and approximately 35% consume one which contains folic acid. For some reason, men tend to consume more than women, and Caucasians tend to take more than Hispanics or African-Americans. Additionally, the group that consumes the most folic acid is those individuals who are over 50 years of age.
The US FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) created regulations which required adding folic acid to certain grain products in 1996. This included breads, flours, pastas, rice, serial, and cornmeal. In 1998 the ruling took effect. The ruling was geared specifically toward the reduction of birth defects found in newborns in the United States. However, today there are concerns that the amount required by the FDA is insufficient for good health.
Because of the folic acid enrichment program founded by the FDA, many fortified foods have become an excellent source of folate in the diet of many Americans. The CDC or Center for Disease Control states that adding folic acid to foods rich in whole grains may have caused the rate of birth defects in the United States to drop by 25%. The findings in Canada have been equally optimistic with a reduction of almost 50% in the prevalence of birth defects.
Recommended dosage depends on your reasons for taking the supplement. Pregnant women will likely be told to take 400 micrograms to prevent birth defects. For folks with a deficiency the dose may range from 250 to 1000 mcgs. 400 mcg is often recommended to reduce the risk of colon cancer. For other specific uses, read the label and check with your doctor.
Folic acid side effects are rare and only seem to occur above doses of 400 mcgs. When users exceed this dosage they may experience symptoms that include: abdominal cramps, changes in behavior, confusion, diarrhea, flatulence, nervous excitability, skin rash, sleep issues, irritability, nausea, stomach upsets, skin reactions, and seizures. At doses of 800 micrograms and higher there are concerns of heart attacks and increased cancer risks.
Ask you doctor about any supplement you want to take to make sure it won't interact with other vitamins or medications you take. Use the supplement finder to compare sources of folic acid and order what you need today!