Ever noticed an abnormality in a child, especially in backbone and brain? You consult a doctor and he would say this abnormality is due to lack of FOLIC ACID or FOLATE during pregnancy. Let us all peep into the amazing benefits of this advantageous vitamin.
Something about Folic Acid
What is folic acid? Folic Acid also known as Vitamin B9 is a water-soluble vitamin that is synthetic and used in supplements and many fortified foods e.g. flour, cereals, or breads etc.
Human bodies lack in making folate naturally and they need this confounding vitamin for DNA construction and cellular division. The only way to fulfill its need is through dietary intake. Luckily we have plenty of options as folate is naturally present in many plants and animal foods e.g. kale, broccoli, spinach, eggs or beef liver, etc. As we take these folic acid-rich foods, our bodies convert it into a more digestible form known as folate.
History of Folic Acid
Lucy Wills was the first-ever scientist to come across this vitamin called Folate and discovered its biochemical functioning in the human body, in 1913. Dr. Wills came to know that anemia can be overruled by brewer’s yeast. Later in 1941, Mitchell and others isolated folate from brewer’s yeast, and while Bob Stokstad followed them and extracted the pure crystalline form of folate in 1943. In the year 1948, it was discovered that folate is an essential compound of DNA, but most importantly, it is helpful in the production of nucleic acid-like Thymine.
RDA for Folic Acid
Dietary Folate Equivalents is a unit that is used to measure the absorbability of folic acid and the amount of folic acid or folate required by the body. Here are some RDAs of folic acid needed in different age groups:
- Children (1-8 years): 150-200µg DFE/day
- Children (9-13 years): 300µg DFE/ day
- Adolescents (14-18 years): 400µg DFE/ day
- Adults (15-50+ years): 400µg DFE/day
- Pregnant women: 600µg DFE/ day
- Lactating mothers: 500µg DFE/day
Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic acid is frequently used as a supplement in form of medicines or fortified foods. Come let’s have a look at the tremendous benefits of this amazing vitamin:
1. Kidney Diseases
85% of people suffering from kidney diseases have high homocysteine levels in their bodies. A study has shown that taking folic acid on a regular basis will help in lowering the homocysteine level of people who are suffering from any kind of serious kidney disease. Intake of folic acid reduces the level by 20-30%, that is if a person has a homocysteine level greater than 11 micromoles/L, they should take folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements. A high level of this compound is associated with heart diseases and stroke, however, intake of supplements does not show any signs of minimizing the risk of heart diseases.
2. Mental Health
A research showed that poor brain function in humans is linked to a low level of folate in the blood. Even older people can have any kind of mental illness in case of low levels of folate in their blood. Many studies have shown that taking proper and sufficient supplements of folic acid, improves many brain functions, mental impairment, and even treats Alzheimer’s disease. A study conducted in 2019, showed that if a person is administered with 400mcg of folic acid per day for 2 years, will tremendously improve the brain functions in people having Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or any problem in verbal IQ. About 1250 mcg of folic acid per day can also reduce certain proteins that are involved in the rise of Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies also showed that people suffering from depression, have low levels of folate in their blood, so taking folic acid supplements along with antidepressants can help in minimizing depression.
3. Pregnancy Complications and Birth Defect
Whenever a woman visits her gynecologist during the first trimester of pregnancy, the doctor would always recommend taking folic acid. The only reason for this is the development of the brain and skull of the unborn child. Lack of folic acid or folate can lead to many neural tube defects like Spinal Bifida and Anencephaly, as well as folic acid also prevents pregnancy-related complications like preeclampsia. The recommended dietary allowance for pregnant women is 600-800 mcg of folic acid per day, either in the form of diet or supplements, prior to pregnancy or during pregnancy. Any woman who had history-related neural birth defects should take 4000 mcg of folic acid per day. Many studies showed that folic acid also cures gum diseases during pregnancy.
Some studies showed that taking folic acid orally may improve a skin disorder known as called vitiligo which causes white patches on the skin. But this study is not confirmed as the study was conducted on a few numbers of people and only a small number of people showed signs of improved skin conditions.
5. Eliminating Toxicity
A treatment involving Methotrexate medicines causes many side effects like nausea and vomiting. So, taking folic acid seems to eliminate the toxicity caused by these medicines.
6. Age-related Macular Degeneration
With the passage of time and age, older people can develop a number of eye problems like loss of vision or Macular Degeneration. However, taking folic acid along with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 can largely reduce the risk of developing these vision problems,
7. Other Benefits
Taking folic acid supplements are also related to many other benefits on our health. Some of these are as:
Inflammatory markers like polycystic ovary(PCOS), children with epilepsy, or C-reactive Protein(CRP), are largely eliminated by taking folic acid on a regular basis.
Folic acid supplements help to control blood sugar, improve insulin resistance, and also make cardiovascular functions better, in those patients suffering from diabetes. Folic acid is also associated with lowering diabetic complications like neuropathy.
Women taking more than 800 mcg/ day of folic acid in the form of food intake or supplements, have improved and higher live births, as well as sufficient folic acid, is very beneficial for egg quality, implantation, and maturation of fetus during pregnancy.
A high dose of folic acid may cause some negative side effects, which are:
- Autism in children
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Reddened skin
- Tightness in chest
If anyone faces any of these problems, they should immediately consult a doctor and seek medical help.
Other than the potential risks of overdosing of folic acid, there are numerous benefits of taking folic acid, especially for pregnant women, as folic acid is the main component of DNA. But moderation should be maintained in order to stay healthy. In case of allergy or other symptoms, consult the physician as soon as possible.