Benefits of Folic Acid
Folate and folic acid are forms of vitamin B9 used to cure the deficiency and prevent complications during pregnancy. Numerous foods contain folate or folic acid.
As required by federal law, folic acid has been added to cold cereals, flour, bread, pasta, bakery products, cookies, and crackers since 1998.
Folate-rich foods include leafy greens, okra, asparagus, particular fruits, beans, yeast, mushrooms, animal liver and kidney, orange juice, and tomato juice.
Folic acid is also available as a dietary supplement, which is frequently taken with other B vitamins.
Folic acid is used to prevent and treat low blood folate levels (folate deficiency) and high blood homocysteine levels (hyperhomocysteinemia).
Folic acid is taken by women who are pregnant or may become pregnant to prevent serious birth defects such as spina bifida.
Folic acid is also used to treat numerous other conditions, including depression, stroke, memory and cognitive reduction, and numerous others.
What basically is folic acid?
Folic acid is a type of B vitamin commonly found in dried beans, peas, lentils, oranges, whole-wheat products, liver, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach.
Folic acid helps in the production and maintenance of new cells and prevents DNA mutations that can lead to cancer.
Folic acid is used as a medication to treat folic acid deficiency and anemia (lack of red blood cells) caused by folic acid deficiency.
Folic acid is occasionally combined with other drugs to treat pernicious anemia. Folic acid alone cannot treat pernicious anemia and other anemias that are not caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12. Take your medications exactly as prescribed.
What is the main differentiator between folate and folic acid?
Folate and folic acid are both types of vitamin B9, but they are not the same thing.
Folic acid has a different chemical structure than folate and has slightly different physiological effects.
Folate is the generic term for all forms of vitamin B9, which includes folic acid and 5-MTHF. This vitamin's specific synthetic form is folic acid. (1).
Folate can be found in the following plant and animal foods (2):
- Citrus fruits
- Beef liver
Folic acid is added to flour, ready-to-eat cereals, and bread. (4)
It is also present in dietary supplements like multivitamins. (1)
Benefits and uses
Folic acid and folate are both also used in dietary supplements.
Although they treat the same conditions, these two nutrients are metabolised differently in the body and have different effects on health. (1)
The following are some common uses for, as well as benefits associated with, folic acid supplements.
Managing Folic Acid deficiency
Folate deficiency can be caused by a wide range of different factors. The following are potential reasons for folate deficiency:
- Folate deficiency in the regular diet
- Celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, and gastric bypass surgery, which interfere with the body's absorption of folate;
- Low stomach acid (known as Hypochlorhydria) or no stomach acid (known as Achlorhydria)
- Medications that inhibit folate absorption, such as methotrexate and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
- Alcohol use disorder
- Aplastic anemia
Consuming inadequate folate can result in complications such as anemia, problems with fetal growth, mental impairment, impaired immune function, and depression. Supplementing with folic acid or folate can increase your levels and prevent these complications (5, 6).
Preventing congenital malformations and pregnancy complications
Folic acid supplements can help prevent the development of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Folic acid intake during pregnancy can reduce the likelihood that your baby will be born with one of these conditions. (7)
Folic acid supplements not only prevent foetal development problems but also reduce the risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia.
Maintaining Mental Health
Low folate levels are linked to decreased cognitive function and an increased risk of dementia. Even technically normal but marginally low folate levels may increase the risk of cognitive impairment in older adults.
Folate consumption may also protect against Alzheimer's disease. (8)
In a 2019 investigation includes 180 adults with mild cognitive impairment, taking 400 mcg of folic acid supplements daily for two years improved brain function and decreased blood levels of Alzheimer's disease-related proteins (9).
Another research evaluated 121 newly diagnosed Alzheimer's disease patients who were being treated with donepezil (Aricept).
Those who also took 1,250 mcg of folic acid daily for six months had a better cognitive function and less inflammation than those who only took Aricept (10).
Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
Folate is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals. Insufficient folate intake has been associated with depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders.
People with depression may have lower folate levels in their blood than those without depression (11).
In addition to antidepressant medication, taking folate supplements may reduce depression symptoms more than taking antidepressant medication alone.
Folic acid and folate supplements may reduce symptoms of mental health conditions such as postpartum depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, according to a 2022 review of studies.
According to a review of seven studies, treatment with folate supplements in addition to antipsychotic medication may improve schizophrenia symptoms more than antipsychotic medication alone.
However, larger and more robust studies are required to support these results.
Minimizing Cardiovascular Risk Factors
Folate-based supplements, such as folic acid, may improve heart health and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is believed that elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine increase the risk of heart disease.
Low folate levels can lead to high homocysteine levels, also known as hyperhomocysteinemia because folate helps break down homocysteine.
Folic acid supplements can help reduce homocysteine levels and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Folic acid supplementation was associated with a 4% reduction in the overall risk of heart disease and a 10% reduction in the risk of stroke, according to a review of 30 studies involving more than 80,000 participants.
furthermore, the addition of folic acid supplements to antihypertensive drugs may reduce high blood pressure considerably more than antihypertensive drugs alone.
Folic acid supplements may also improve the function of blood vessels in patients with heart disease. (12).
Folic acid supplements may also help with diabetes and heart disease.
Folate supplements may help people with diabetes control their blood sugar and have less trouble with insulin.
Since the diabetes drug metformin can lower folate levels, you may need a supplement if your levels are low. (13)
• Problems with getting Pregnant.
Folate can make eggs better, help them grow, and help them stick to the uterus.
Taking folate might make it easier to get pregnant and carry a child to full term.
People who try to get pregnant with the help of assisted reproductive technology may be more likely to have a baby if they take more folate. (14)
Inflammation is a part of a lot of different diseases. Folate and folic acid supplements have been shown to lower inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. (15)
• Disease of the Kidneys.
When the kidneys are healthy, they remove waste from the blood.
If the kidneys are damaged, however, homocysteine can start to build up. People with chronic kidney disease have too much homocysteine in their blood about 85% of the time.
People with kidney disease may be able to lower their homocysteine levels and risk of heart disease by taking folic acid supplements. (16)
Still, bigger research is needed to prove that folate supplements are helpful.
This list doesn't include all of the good things that folic acid can do. Folate-based supplements are also used for many other reasons.
Discuss to the medical professional
Before you start taking folic acid supplements, you should talk to a physician or nurse.
They can make sure that the supplements won’t harm you if you're already taking other medicines.
Folic acid supplements are often given to pregnant women to prevent problems with foetal development.
Low folate levels can be bad for your health, and a medical condition may make you not get enough of this important nutrient.
Folic Acid for Pregnancy
Folate is important for a baby's growth and development.
It helps cells divide and helps tissues grow. It also helps the neural tube, which is the baby's brain and spine, grow.
Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects like anencephaly and spina bifida if it is taken before and during pregnancy. (17)
An independent group of national experts on disease prevention called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that anyone trying to get pregnant should start taking a daily folic acid supplement with 400–800 mcg at least one month before getting pregnant and for the first 2–3 months of pregnancy. (18)
People who are of reproductive age and have sexual activity that could lead to pregnancy are usually told to take a folic acid supplement since many pregnancies are not planned.
Folic acid has been added to flour and other foods since the 1990s. Both fortified foods and folic acid supplements can help lower the risk of neural tube defects before and during pregnancy. (19)
Taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy may improve a child's brain function and lower the child's risk of developing autism spectrum disorder.
This is in addition to preventing problems with foetal development (ASD).
Too much folic acid, on the other hand, could hurt a child's brain development and make them more likely to develop autism.
Folate is also important for a pregnant woman's health. Folic acid supplements have been shown to lower the risk of complications during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia.
Higher folate levels in a pregnant woman may make it less likely that she will give birth early.
Folate is important for both pregnant women's and their baby's health, and it's not always easy to get enough of it from food alone (6, 7, 9).
Folic acid supplements help support pregnancy, lower the risk of complications during pregnancy, and lower the risk of problems with foetal development.
Folic Acid Dose
Folic acid is suitable for women, but they should only take 400 mcg per day if they are 14 or older.
- Pregnant women: 600 mcg
- Women who are pregnant with twins: 1,000 mcg
- Nursing women: 500 mcg
If you've had a neural tube defect in a previous pregnancy, the advice is different:
Trying to get Pregnant
The CDC says that you should take 4,000 mcg every day if you are trying to get pregnant again.
You should start taking this dose one month before you get pregnant and keep doing it for the first three months of your pregnancy.
If you don't want to get pregnant,
you should get 400 mcg of folic acid every day from a supplement or from foods that have been fortified.
Even if you don't want to get pregnant right now, you should still do this.
During your treatment with the drug methotrexate (Trexall), you may be told to take a folic acid supplement.
Most of the time, these doses are higher: 1,000 mcg once a day or 5,000 mcg once a week.
Folic acid shouldn't be taken in amounts higher than 1,000 mcg daily. If you take too much folic acid, it can make you sick.
It could also make it harder to tell if you don't have enough B12.
For folic acid to work, you have to take it every day. Folic acid does not get stored in your body as other vitamins and hormones do.
Folic acid that doesn't get used will leave your body in your urine. Folic acid levels in your body will slowly go down if you stop taking it.
Folic acid Supplements are used in many ways.
Folic acid supplements are used to
- Keep babies from being born with neural tube defects;
- Prevent and treat anemia;
- Keep methotrexate from making you sick;
- Treat a folate deficiency.
There is also proof that getting enough folic acid can help:
- Keep from getting a stroke or heart disease
- Lower the chance of getting poisoned by arsenic
If you have ever had a negative reaction to folic acid, you shouldn't take this medicine.
Before you take folic acid, you should tell your doctor if you have kidney disease (or are on dialysis), an infection, are an alcoholic, or have any type of anemia that has not been diagnosed by a doctor and confirmed by lab testing.
Talk to your doctor about taking folic acid while you're pregnant or nursing. Folic acid is sometimes used with other medicines to treat pernicious anemia.
Take your medication exactly as prescribed, as specified on both the label and the packaging.
Tell each health care provider about all of your health problems, allergies, and medicines.
Prior to taking this Medicine
If you've ever had an adverse reaction to folic acid, you should not use this medication.
If you have ever had any of the following conditions, consult a physician or pharmacist regarding the safety of this medication.
- Epilepsy or other seizure condition;
- Cirrhosis or other liver illness;
- Renal disease (or if you are on dialysis);
- Hemolytic anemia;
- Pernicious anemia;
- Anemia not diagnosed by a physician and confirmed by laboratory testing;
- An infection; or
Consult your doctor if you are planning a pregnancy or are currently breastfeeding. Your dosage requirements may vary during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Warnings for folic acid during pregnancy and breastfeeding
It is probably safe for the majority of people to take folic acid in amounts of no more than 1 mg per day when taken orally.
Doses exceeding 1 mg daily may be harmful.
These amounts may produce gastrointestinal distress, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, confusion, alterations in behavior, skin responses, convulsions, and other side effects.
L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF) is another type of folic acid that can be found in supplements.
This form of folic acid may be safe for most individuals in dosages up to 400 micrograms per day.
There is considerable concern that taking excessive amounts of folic acid for an extended period of time may induce severe negative effects.
Some evidence suggests that taking daily amounts of folic acid between 0.8 and 1.2 mg may raise the risk of cancer or heart stroke in individuals with heart disease.
Pregnancy and Nursing Mothers:
Folic acid dosages of 300 to 400 micrograms per day are advised during pregnancy to avoid some birth abnormalities.
During pregnancy or breastfeeding, the maximum recommended daily dose of folic acid is 800 mcg for those under the age of 18 and 1000 mcg for those over the age of 18. Use only the amount prescribed by a healthcare expert.
L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF) is another type of folic acid that can be obtained in supplements.
This form of folic acid may be taken safely in doses up to 400 mcg per day when pregnant or breastfeeding.
It is likely safe for children to take the prescribed levels of folic acid by mouth.
However, children should avoid taking amounts of folic acid that exceed the daily maximum.
These limitations are :-
Another form of folic acid that can be obtained through the use of supplements is known as L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or L-5-MTHF for short. This kind of folic acid may be safe for youngsters.
The use of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 may exacerbate the need for angioplasty to expand constricted arteries. Individuals recovering from this operation should not consume folic acid.
Preliminary research indicates that consuming 0.8-1 mg of folic acid per day may raise the risk of developing cancer.
People with a history of cancer should avoid taking large dosages of folic acid until more is known.
Taking folic acid supplements, particularly in large amounts, may exacerbate seizures in patients with seizure disorders.
Last Word from Health Dose
Folic acid treats folate deficiency and high homocysteine levels (hyperhomocysteinemia).
Pregnant women take folic acid to prevent birth defects like spina bifida. Folic acid is used for depression, stroke, memory loss, and more.
Folic acid is found in dried beans, peas, lentils, oranges, whole-wheat products, liver, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and spinach.
Folic acid helps your body produce and maintain new cells and prevents cancer-causing DNA changes.
Folic acid is used to treat folic acid deficiency and anemia caused by it. Pernicious anemia is sometimes treated with folic acid.
Folic acid alone won't treat pernicious anemia and other anemias. Follow all drug instructions.
FAQ : Benefits of Folic Acid
What Quantity Of Folic Acid Is Required To Prevent Neural Tube Defects?
The CDC and US Public Health Service recommend that all women who may get pregnant consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of synthetic folic acid daily.
Daily supplementation with a folic acid-containing vitamin is a simple way for a woman to ensure she receives adequate folic acid.
The majority of vitamins supplied in the United States include the required daily quantity of folic acid (400 mcg) for preventing neural tube abnormalities in women.
Vitamins are available at most local pharmacies, grocery stores, and bargain retailers.
You can obtain your folic acid supplement in a variety of ways. You can take a multivitamin or a small, single folic acid dose.
Multivitamins with folic acid are currently available as chewable chocolate or fruit-flavored tablets, liquids, and large oval or smaller round pills.
Numerous retailers offer folic acid supplements for pennies per day.
A store-brand multivitamin is also an excellent option because it contains the majority of the vitamins you need daily.
You do not have to select between vitamins for women, active individuals, and persons on a low-carbohydrate diet unless your doctor recommends a specific variety.
A basic multivitamin is sufficient for the majority of women.
A second strategy to obtain folic acid is to consume a sufficient amount of folic acid-enriched breakfast cereal every day. Be sure to check the label on the side of the cereal box to ensure that you are receiving a proper quantity of folic acid.
When a woman should begin taking folic acid?
These birth abnormalities of the brain and spine occur during the first few weeks of pregnancy, frequently before the mother is aware that she is pregnant.