Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9 or folate. Folic acid is important for tissue growth, cells development, and healthy brain development. It is a vital element for cell division, which is necessary for producing the genetic material, the DNA. Here we review folic acid benefits, importance of folic acid along with its side effects.
So, you know what is folic acid, before we get into what is folic acid good for, here is a small list food sources that are rich in folic acid.
Dietary Sources Of Folic Acid
Folic acid occurs naturally in the foods such as:
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Dried beans, peas, and legumes
- Dark green leafy vegetables as spinach and broccoli
- Melons and bananas
- Mushrooms and asparagus
- Pork, poultry, shellfish, kidney and liver meat
- Wheat bran
- Fortified cereals
|Spinach, cooked (1 cup)||230 mcg|
And now, for the benefits of folic acid.
Folic Acid Benefits
1. Folic Acid For Pregnancy
Folic acid is quite helpful during the preconception period and pregnancy as well. This is widely used to prevent any birth defects, enhance the fetus development, and increase the chances of conceiving. Women who want to conceive are recommended daily vitamin supplements for adequate intake of folic acid. Expectant mothers need to begin taking supplements of folic acid during pregnancy period. However, the folic acid supplements should be taken as per the dose advised by the doctor or a medical practitioner.
Intake of folic acid in pregnancy not only prevents your baby from serious neural tube defects but it also protects your baby against various other problems like:
- Low birth weight
- Poor growth in the womb
- Cleft lip and palate
- Premature birth
how much folic acid during pregnancy? The recommended folic acid pregnancy dose is as follows:
- 400 mcg per day is recommended for women who are trying to conceive.
- 400 mcg per day is recommended during the first three months of pregnancy.
- 600 mcg per day is recommended from the fourth month to the ninth month of pregnancy.
- 500 mcg per day is recommended during the breastfeeding period.
Folic acid is used to cure depression and enhance mood regulation. An adequate folate level is necessary for proper brain functioning.
Folic acid works with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help the body utilize and digest proteins.
[ Read: Healthy Foods That Help Digestion ]
Folic acid, with other important antioxidants, helps in eliminating toxins from the body, which can reduce acne on the face. But, we should also note that the overdose of folic acid can lead to more acne, patchy and dry skin.
5. Hair Growth
Folic acid plays an important role in hair growth. It renews the cells that aid the growth of hair. Folic acid deficiency can lead to premature graying and hair loss.
6. Red Blood Cells
Folic acid has an important function in red blood cells. White blood cells are also produced with the help of folate supplements.
7. Healthy Glow
The proper intake of folic acid can give one’s skin a natural, healthy, and moisturized glow.
8. Heart Disease
Folic acid, along with vitamin B12, helps the heart in many ways. They help reduce blood clotting; blood clots lead to cardiovascular disease. Hence, it helps reduce the chances of heart attacks.
[ Read: Selenium Benefits ]
Folic acid can prevent the cancer cells from multiplying. You can be protected from colon cancer by consuming folic acid supplements. It can also help prevent cervical cancer and pancreatic cancer.
10. Firm Skin
Folic acid helps improve the firmness of the human skin. It also helps reduce the signs of skin aging.
Adequate amounts of folic acid may help the patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Folic acid also helps in preventing memory loss due to aging.
Folic acid can reduce the fat content in the blood. This may help in handling obesity and thus, prevent type 2 diabetes.
[ Read: What is Serotonin ]
13. Male Fertility
Folic acid is also important for dads-to-be. It helps in conception by correcting the sperm counts and motility.
14. Gum Infection
Folic acid can be directly applied to the gum to cure gum infections.
Anemia is an extremely common problem now, affecting all, starting from the kids to the elderly people. Women are especially prone to becoming anemic because they tend to ignore their own diet and health issues.
If you feel tired all the time and look pale and feel dizzy often, you should get yourself checked for anemia. Other symptoms include difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest, headaches and palpitations. Both iron and folic acid not only prevent, but also cure anemia. As you already know, iron is needed for the formation of red blood cells. Similarly, folate also helps Vitamin B12 in the formation of RBCs. Make sure to take your required daily intake of iron and folic acid to get enough blood pumping through your veins.
Some women lose a lot of blood during these days. If you experience heavy flow during periods and feel more exhausted, then the reason might be the deficiency of iron and folic acid. Taking foods rich in iron and folic acid will help improve the condition. You can consult with your doctor if you need supplements.
Folic Acid Deficiency
Some of the factors that are found to be responsible for folic acid deficiency are:
The main cause of folic acid deficiency is an imbalanced diet, which contains low quantities of fresh vegetables, fruits, and fortified cereals. Over cooking of foods may destroy folic acid.
Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease, which affect the absorption of folic acid in the gastrointestinal tract can cause folic acid deficiency.
3. Side Effects Of Medications
Certain medications as sulfasalazine, phenytoin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole are found to cause folic acid deficiency.
4. Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is found to interfere with folic acid absorption. Alcohol increases the excretion of folic acid through urination.
5. Oral Contraceptive Pills
Studies reveal that oral contraceptive pills are found to interfere with the absorption of folic acid from the food.
Folic Acid Deficiency Symptoms
Folic acid deficiency is commonly found in a number of individuals. Deficiency of folic acid may cause symptoms which are often subtle. Some of the common symptoms of folic acid deficiency are:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Peptic Ulcers
- Swollen tongue or glossitis
- Grey hair
- Poor growth
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms due to folic acid anemia are caused by lower oxygen levels in the body. Some of the symptoms of folic acid anemia are:
- Persistent fatigue
- Stomach and intestinal ailments such as diarrhea, constipation
- Tender, smooth red and painful tongue
- Pale skin
[ Read: Why Iron And Folic Acid Are Important For Your Body ]
Folic acid deficiency can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. Folate level tests are usually recommended for pregnant women during prenatal checkups.
Certain severe complications may occur due to folic acid deficiency. Folic acid is essential for normal production of red blood cells. Severe deficiency may lead to megaloblastic anemia, a condition where the red blood cells are not completely developed and are larger than the normal size. It might also lead to a low count of platelets and white blood cells. The fetus also may develop serious birth defects in spinal cord and brain.
Treatment And Prevention
- Treatment of folic acid deficiency involves dietary intake and supplements of folic acid.
- Vitamin B complex is the usually prescribed form of folic acid supplement.
- For prevention of folic acid deficiency during pregnancy, alcohol intake should be totally stopped.
- A proper nutritious diet is recommended to prevent folic acid deficiency.
- Consumption of food with high folic acid content is also recommended.
So, that was about folic acid benefits, and all the information regarding foilc acid deficiency. Now, look into folic acid effects.
Folic Acid Side Effects On Overdose
So far, folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, the excess amount often flush out with urine and stool. However, consumption of this vitamin compound can be dangerous if taken for a long time. Some of the common side effects of folic acid are:
- Zinc deficiency
- Digestive problems like nausea and gas
- Sleeplessness or insomnia
- Rash on skin
- Numbness in tongue or mouth
- Hypertension and excitement
- Psychotic behaviours
- Reduced or increased appetite
- Mental depression
- Lack of concentration
Some Important Tips For Consumption Of Folic Acid
- Avoid folic acid dosage in excess.
- Consume only after proper consultation, or if advised.
- Folic acid deficiency can lead to diarrhea, gingivitis, irritability, forgetfulness, poor growth, tongue inflammation, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, seborrheic dermatitis, and sluggishness.
- Birth control pills can lower the folic acid level in the body.
- Tobacco and alcohol reduce the folic acid levels and thus, the high intake of coffee, alcohol, and smoking leads to folate deficiency.
Hope you liked our post on folic acid benefits. Now it is clear that folate or folic acid is a treasure heap of benefits for our human body and is a great source of improving health. Why wait, start including folate rich foods to reap its benefits. Do share if you know any other essential folic acid uses in the comment section below.