Folic Acid Deficiency
WHAT IS FOLIC ACID?
Folic acid deficiency (Vitamin B9, Folacin, Folate) has been reduced in recent years since food fortification was introduced in many countries.
A water soluble vitamin B9 important for numerous functions especially growth and
cell division. The natural source is mainly in green vegetable leaves (the name folate is from Latin ‘folium’) and some fruits.
Folic acid is essential for production and health of red blood cells, DNA synthesis and replication.
This has an important affect on bone marrow. Also on cancer as it has a fast cell division.
FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY
Anaemia – is caused by folic acid deficiency which reduces division of cells resulting in deficiency of red cells. (Anaemia can be reversed with e.g. brewer’s yeast)
Symptoms of anaemia manifest usually after several months. Shortness of breath, irritability, fatigue and weakness, palpitations, headache, these are some of the indicators of anaemia in progress.
Synthetic folic acid intake should not exceed 1000 micrograms a day. Though scarce it may have unwanted consequences such as masking of vitamin B12 deficiency one of the folic acid side effects. This is especially true for persons older than 50 years.
The risk of toxicity is low. Level of folate should be established by medical practitioner especially in cases of pregnancy or if using medications. It is not desirable to have too much folic acid intake in forms of supplements.
GROUPS AT RISK
• Pregnant and lactating women (Due to higher folate level requirements)
• Children (Rapid growth)
• Elderly people (Insufficient utilization of folate due to possible use of medicine, poor ingestion, etc.)
• Alcoholics (Increased excretion into bile, may interfere with folate utilization and poor diet)
• People with poor dietary intake
• Smokers (Possible folate inactivation)
FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY and PREGNANCY
It is important to have a sufficient intake of folate before, during and after pregnancy. It is highly recommended to take folic acid supplement in form of fortified foods.
While 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid is recommended for women; in pregnancy it is almost the double (600 – 800 micrograms).
FOLIC ACID FOODS
Among foods high in folic acid are vegetables and fruits such as lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, bananas, oranges, sunflower seeds and more. These are the most important natural sources of folic acid.
Foods that contain folic acid are also liver and baker’s yeast.
FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENT
Folic acid is added to various foods. This varies from country to country. In USA for example it is added to breakfast cereals while other countries fortify flour.
There are still some discrepancies about it in UK, Australia and New Zealand if folic acid should be added to products.
Countries in EU so far do not have mandatory fortification to date.
BENEFITS OF FOLIC ACID
Since introduction of mandatory fortification there was a dramatic decrease in neural tube defects, also in neuroblastoma (a malignant tumour of embryonic nerve cells) a very dangerous cancer in young children.
Folic acid may also decrease the amount of homocysteine which is an amino acid present in blood.
High levels of homocysteine may increase risks of having stroke or heart disease.
5 mg of folate taken daily for period of 3 weeks results in decreased systolic blood pressure of up to 4.7 mmHg according to some trials.
Though it had been suggested sufficient folate intake may prevent various cancers it causes more harm to those already suffering from cancer.
(Deficiency of folate may result in cancer due to possible damage of DNA)
Insufficient amount of folate may be linked among others to depression, macular degeneration and to lower mental and memory agility.
If you are not a great vegetable and salad eater, you might supplement your Folic Acid intake.
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