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Folic Acid

Overview

Folic Acid, also known as vitamin B9, is one of the families of eight water-soluble B-complex vitamins. Like all the B vitamins, it plays a role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins into glucose that the body burns for energy. Specifically, folic acid is essential in the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, and deficiencies of folic acid have been implicated in chronic depression and other mental disorders, as well as in birth defects that affect the neural tube.

Because the grains and vegetables that are the best source of folic acid tend to be in short supply in the diet, it is the most common B vitamin deficiency encountered in the United States. In 1996, the USDA approved the enrichment of cereal and grain products with folic acid, and most doctors prescribe folic acid supplements for pregnant women as preventive against neural tube defects like spina bifida.

What Folic Acid  Does:

Folic acid helps the body to make RNA and DNA, the body’s genetic material that contains all the code for new cells. Because of this role, deficiencies of folic acid can have far-reaching effects, and is especially important during pregnancy, infancy and adolescence when the body is growing rapidly. Folic acid also is used in creating red blood cells and regulating the use of iron by the body. It also works closely with vitamins B6 and B12 to help control levels of the amino acid, homocysteine. Researchers suspect that elevated levels of homocysteine may be implicated in a number of illnesses and conditions, including come cancers, heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency:

Folic acid deficiency can cause poor growth, tongue inflammation, gingivitis, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, diarrhea, irritability, forgetfulness, and mental sluggishness. Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women has been proven to cause neural tube birth defects in the newborn.

Health Benefits of Folic Acid:

  • Folic Acid prevents birth defects

Low levels of folic acid in the mother have been definitively connected to neural tube defects in the infant. Since the USDA approved the enrichment of grain and cereal products with folic acid, the incidence of neural tube defects in the United States has dropped by 19%. Health experts state that a pregnant woman can reduce her chances of having a child with spina bifida, cleft palate or other neural tube birth defect by 72-100% by taking a multivitamin with folic acid throughout her pregnancy.

Recent research suggests that supplementing with folic acid during pregnancy may also help prevent miscarriage and Downs Syndrome.

  • Folic acid helps protect the heart

The American Heart Association recommends B complex supplements with folic acid for people at risk of heart disease. Folic acid, along with vitamin B6, B12 and betaine, can lower the levels of homocysteine in the blood, thereby contributing to lowering cholesterol and the incidence of plaque in the arteries.

  • Folic acid may help combat Alzheimer’s disease and other age related mental disorders

Folic acid and other B vitamins are essential for good neural health. Again, high levels of homocysteine and lowered levels of folic acid have been found in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Because of this, combined with the known role of folic acid in building neural tissue and cells, many doctors recommend supplementing the diet with folic acid or a multivitamin containing folic acid to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Folic Acid helps alleviate depression

Doctors often recommend supplements with vitamins B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid) for treatment of chronic depression. The three vitamins work in concert to lower levels of homocysteine acid in the blood and relieve the symptoms of depression.

  • Folic acid seems to protect against certain cancers

While scientists aren’t certain exactly how, it appears that folic acid protects against cancer of the colon, breast, esophagus and stomach.

  • Folic acid may reduce tumor growth and risk of colon cancer in people with IBD

Preliminary research suggests that supplements of folic acid may reduce the risk of tumor growth in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

  • Folic acid may increase sperm count in infertile men

A study of 48 infertile men showed low levels of folic acid in their semen. There’s a suggestion that increasing the level of folic acid may have an effect on infertility.

Possible Side Effects of Folic Acid

Side effects folic acid are very rare. At extremely high doses, it may cause stomach upset, sleep problems, skin reactions and seizures. When taking folic acid, always include vitamin B12 in the supplementation, as folic acid supplements can mask an underlying B12 vitamin deficiency, which can cause permanent nerve damage.

Summary

Folic acid is an essential nutrient. Its presence in adequate amounts is vital to growth and reproduction of cells, particularly neural cells. Because the normal western diet doesn’t contain many good sources of folic acid, doctors often recommend supplementing an otherwise healthy diet with a good multivitamin health supplement that includes folic acid and other B complex vitamins. One such health supplement that we recommend highly is Total Balance from Xtend-Life Products. Total Balance is a formulation of over 70 nutrients combined into a total health supplement solution that is synergistically balanced to promote an active, healthy lifestyle.

 

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