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Why Your Blood Needs Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Why Your Blood Needs Folic Acid (Folate)

Folic acid is a form of folate that helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.

Folate is needed for the production of red cells, normal cell growth and to help reduce homocysteine levels in the blood.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that can lead to heart attack, stroke and birth defects.

Folate as an essential vitamin B helps regulate DNA synthesis and repairing of cells. But did you know that this vitamin performs many functions in the blood?.

In this blog post, we will discuss what folic acid does to the body, the benefits, and recommendations for how much you should take.

What is folic acid and what does it do in the blood?

Vitamin B9 also called folate is one of the water-soluble B vitamins.

The name comes from folium, which is the latin word for leaves, because folates were first isolated from spinach.

Vitamin B9 can occur in different forms, the naturally occurring folate, and folic acid, a synthetic folate compound used in making vitamin supplements and fortified food because of it’s increased stability.

What are the benefits and functions of folic acid?

A sufficient intake of vitamin B9, occurring as folate and folic acid, functions as a coenzyme that helps the body to:

  • Utilize amino acids, the building blocks of proteins
  • Produce nucleic acids, the body’s genetic material
  • Form blood cells in the bone marrow
  • Ensure rapid cell growth in infancy, adolescence and pregnancy
  • Control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, is linked with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease
  • Normal blood formation

Is folic acid good for your blood?

Yes. Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamins that has many benefits in the blood. Here are the reasons why your blood needs folic acid.

Birth Defects

Birth defects studies have found that women who take folic acid supplements before conception and during the first four months of pregnancy may reduce their risk of having children with neural tube defects by 72-100%. Folic acid may also help prevent miscarriage, although the evidence is not clear.

Heart Disease

There is some evidence that getting enough folic acid in the diet may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, this evidence is based on population studies and not on definitive clinical trials.

In addition, because folic acid helps control levels of homocysteine in the body, homocysteine tends to be high in people with heart disease, researchers theorize that lowering homocysteine may help prevent heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

However, more research is needed to clarify the relationship between homocysteine, heart disease, and the potential benefits of folic acid supplements.

Cancer

Folic acid appears to protect against the development of some forms of cancer, particularly cancer of the breast and colon.

However, this evidence is based on population studies that show people who get enough folate in their diet have lower rates of these cancers. Currently, there is no proof that taking folic acid supplements helps prevent cancer.

Alzheimer’s Disease

People who have alzheimer’s disease often have low levels of folic acid in their blood, but it is not clear whether this is a result of the disease or if they are simply malnourished due to their illness.

There is some evidence that consuming adequate amounts of folic acid in the diet could be beneficial to the aging brain and help protect it against alzheimer and other forms of dementia.

What foods provides folic acid?

Folic acid is found in a wide variety of foods. It’s richest sources are:

  • Beans
  • Cocoyam leaves
  • Wheat germ
  • Yeast
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

Other sources include: egg yolk, milk and dairy products, beets, orange juice and whole wheat bread.

Are folic acid dietary supplements available?

Yes. Some multivitamin-mineral folic acid supplements are available in the form of tablets and capsules. Some of the recommended ones include:

  • Bioactive Folate (90 capsules): Folic acid capsules with quatrefolic, the effective active form of folate.
  • Ultra B Complex (60 capsules): High dose vitamin B complex for energy and strong nerves.
  • Vitamin B Complex (60 capsules): The complete vitamin B complex
  • Forever B12 Plus: It combines vitamin B12 and folic acid to help produce red blood cells, improve the way iron is used in the body and supports the immune system.

Which groups of people don’t get enough folic acid?

There are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of not getting enough folic acid in their diet.

  • Pregnant women: Folic acid is important for pregnant women as it can help to prevent certain birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine.
  • Women of childbearing age: Even if they are not currently pregnant, women who may become pregnant should make sure they are getting enough folic acid as it can help to prevent birth defects.
  • People with malabsorption disorders: Individuals with celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis may have difficulty absorbing folic acid from food.
  • Alcoholics: Alcoholism can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb folic acid.
  • People on medications: Methotrexate and sulfasalazine interacts with folate, so the body finds it difficult to absorb.

How much folic acid do you need?

In europe, the recommended intake for folate varies between 200 mcg and 400 mcg per day for adults in different countries, in the U.S, 400 mcg/day for adults, 600 mcg/day during pregnancy, and 500 mcg/day for breast-feeding women have been defined as adequate.

The recommended daily intake of folic acid varies by age and sex. Here is a breakdown for different age groups listed in milligrams (mg):

  • Infants 0-6 months: 65 mg
  • Infants 7-12 months: 80 mg
  • Children 1-3 years: 150 mg
  • Children 4-8 years: 200 mg
  • Children 9-13 years: 300 mg
  • Male teens 14-18 years: 400 mg
  • Female teens 14-18 years: 600 mg
  • Adult male 20+ years: 400 mg
  • Adult female: 600 mg
  • Pregnant women: 600-800 mg
  • Breastfeeding mothers: 500-600 mg

Which medications interferes with folic acid?

There are several medications that can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb folic acid. These include:

  • Phenytoin
  • Valproic acid
  • Methotrexate
  • Sulfasalazine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Primidone

Some birth control pills can also lower folic acid levels in the blood.

Is folic acid harmful to the blood?

Folates are normally non toxic, but excessive folic acid can worsen the effects of vitamin B9 deficiency.

Folic acid itself in general is not considered harmful to the blood at recommended doses. Here are a few things to consider:

•Taking up to the recommended daily amount (400 micrograms for most adults) is safe and has not been shown to be harmful.

•Excessive intake of folic acid supplements (exceeding 1000 mcg daily) might cause stomach upset, nausea, and other side effects.

•Long-term, high doses (exceeding 1 milligram daily) are under investigation for increasing the risk of heart attacks in specific groups, although the evidence is inconclusive and more research is needed.

•Unmetabolized folic acid (a form the body can't use) in the blood has not been linked to any confirmed health risks.

Research has concluded that in vitamin B9 deficient patients, the levels of homocysteine and methyl malonic acid are higher in people with lower blood folate levels, than in people with normal blood folate levels.

Read: How to Keep Your Blood Folate Levels in Check

Research states that vitamin B9 deficiency is masked only beyond a blood folate level of 5000 mcg/day.

In adults, supplemental folic acid should not exceed the microliters (μL) to prevent folic acid from triggering the symptoms.

Taking too much folic acid may interfere with zinc absorption, and can lead to a condition called folate overdose or folate toxicity.

While it is difficult to overdose on folic acid from food sources, high intake of supplements can cause some negative side effects as well.

Symptoms of folic acid overdose can include:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Cramps
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Seizures
  • Unusual skin sensations

Takeaway

Folic acid, helps create red blood cells, supports cell growth, and keeps our blood’s homocysteine levels in check, which is key for heart health and preventing birth defects.

Folic acid isn’t just a one-trick pony – it’s involved in making proteins, DNA, and even helps our bodies grow fast, especially during pregnancy in women.

And also, providing protection for babies against birth defects to possibly lowering heart disease risk and even fighting certain cancers and brain problems.

It’s found in tasty foods like greens, beans, and strawberries, and you can get a boost from supplements like forever B12 Plus.

But remember, stick to the right dose when taking folic acid, and talk to experts to keep things balanced and beneficial.

Folic acid is like a trusted friend, supporting your health journey every step of the way.

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