Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is a water-soluble vitamin B9. It is the crucial ingredient in the synthesis and repair of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (Ribonucleic acid). Folate is the naturally available form of vitamin B9, while folic acid is the man-made form. Folate is naturally seen in green leafy vegetables, fruits (banana, watermelon, oranges), okra, asparagus, mushrooms, meat (liver and kidney), dried beans, peas, and nuts. Because of its health benefits, folic acid is added in bread, cereals, cookies, and other grain products.
Folic acid must be converted into active vitamin B9, known as 5-MTHF (L-Methylfolate) before the body can use it. This is a four-step process that requires several enzymes, including an enzyme called MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). Some people have a genetic mutation that makes enzyme MTHFR less effective, leading to a folic acid build-up in the blood. This has been linked to negative health impact in some people. It might cause poor immunity, reduce brain function, and increases the growth of pre-existing cancer.
Folate might be useful in treating or preventing the following health conditions:
By consuming folate-rich food regularly in the right amount and with the help of fortified food products, the daily requirement of folate is usually met. The recommended daily amount of folate for adults is 400 mcg.
Generally, the recommended dose for women is as follows:
This dosage can vary depending on your condition, so always take medicines under medical supervision.
Folate supplements can interact with various medications. Few of the examples are as follows:
Methotrexate: Folic acid might decrease the effectiveness of Methotrexate.
Anti-Seizure Medications: Medicines like Phenytoin, Carbamazepine, and Valproate, which are used to treat seizures, may reduce the blood levels of folate. So, taking folate supplements minimizes the effectiveness of these medicines.
Sulfasalazine: Sulfasalazine is used for ulcerative colitis. It can reduce the folate absorbing ability of the body and cause folate deficiency.
It is best to get the daily Vitamin B9 requirement from food. So, add dark leafy vegetables, meat, and other folate-rich food in your diet. A balanced diet contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other substances required for a healthy life. Take folate supplements only if prescribed by your physician. Tell your doctor about all the other medicines that you are taking, as it can interfere with folate and might cause side effects.
Folate deficiency can result in anemia, which is a blood disorder that causes weakness, trouble concentrating, headache, palpitations, and shortness of breath. It can also cause ulcers in the mouth and might change the color of the skin, hair, and nails. Women with folate deficiency are at risk of having babies with neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly. It also increases the chances of having a premature baby or a low weight baby.
Spina Bifida: The condition where a baby’s spinal column does not close fully during development in the womb, is called spina bifida. It leaves the baby’s spinal cord exposed; as a result, the nerves controlling the legs and other organs do not work. Such children have lifelong disabilities and need many corrective surgeries.
Anencephaly: In this condition, a part or the entire brain and skull do not develop in the womb. Such babies die before or soon after birth.
You should not consume more than 1000 mcg of folic acid a day unless prescribed by your doctor. Some precautions and side effects have to be considered before taking folate:
Mask Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Megaloblastic anemia can be caused by both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency. Just taking folate for anemia might hide vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to permanent damage to the brain, nerves, and the spinal cord.
Risk of Cancer: High doses of folate might increase the risk of colorectal cancer and a few other types of cancer. It can also increase the growth of any pre-existing cancer.
Reduce Immunity and Brain Function: As folic acid takes time to be converted into its active form, it gets accumulated in the bloodstream. This is linked to poor immunity and reduced brain function.
Oral folate supplements may cause a bad taste in the mouth, confusion, loss of appetite, irritability, nausea, skin rash, etc.Last reviewed at: 25.Dec.2018