Folic acid was isolated from spinach in 1940. and belongs to a group of water-soluble B vitamins. Other names are folacin and folate. It can not be stored in the body for a long time. Since cooking and even long-term storage of food can result in loss of half the content of folic acid, use of dietary supplements may be the best way to achieve a sufficient intake.
How does it work?
Folic acid is used in the body many thousands of times a day: it is used in creating blood cells, wound healing, muscle creation… basically, in all processes that require cell division. This substance is necessary for the creation of DNA and RNA, and also allows a normal cell division.
PREVENTION: a sufficient amount of folic acid at conception time and during the first three months of pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of serious birth defects such as spina bifida and cleft palate. That is why pregnant women, but also women who want to become pregnant, should take folic acid. It appears that this vitamin regulates the creation and use of homocysteine and other substances similar to amino acids, which in large quantities may damage the blood vessels wall, which makes plaque easier in these areas. Folic acid is, therefore, important in protecting against heart disease. It can also help prevent the onset of some malignant diseases such as lung, cervical and colon cancer.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: people suffering from depression often lack folic acid. It is believed that high levels of homocysteine can contribute to depression, and folate may relieve the symptoms. It has also been shown that in depressed people who are simultaneously suffering from folic acid deficiency increases the effectiveness of antidepressants if taken in the form of dietary supplements. Folic acid preparations are also useful in treating gout and irritable bowel syndrome. Since it is believed that a high concentration of homocysteine in the blood is one of the factors in the development of osteoporosis, it is believed that folic acid can advantageously affect bone strength.
How much folic acid is needed?
The currently recommended target value for intake for adults is 200 μg per day, but pregnant women and all women planning to become pregnant should also take up to 400 μg. For older people, dietary supplements are important because they probably don’t get enough of this substance from food.
IF YOU TAKE TOO LITTLE: heavy folic acid deficiency, though rare, can lead to a particular form of anemia (called megaloblastic anemia), sores and redness of the tongue, chronic diarrhea, and can even affect the child’s development. Alcoholics, people who are taking some medicines (against cancer or epilepsy), and those suffering from diseases accompanied by reduced absorption of food from the bowels (examples are Crohn’s disease, celiac disease) usually suffer from folic acid deficiency. A mild folate deficiency appears much more frequently, and as a consequence there is an increased risk of developing heart disease or a defect.
IF YOU TAKE TOO MUCH: very large doses (5000 to 10,000 μg) do not have any additional benefit and can be dangerous for people suffering from some forms of cancer related to hormones (such as breast or prostate cancer). Large doses can cause seizures in epileptics.
How to take it?
For health and prevention of heart disease: take 200 μg per day.
For pregnant women and women who may become pregnant: take 400 μg every day. Sufficient folic acid reserves are important because it is necessary for the development of baby from the conception itself.)
For people who suffer from depression: take 400 μg every day within dietary supplements with B vitamins.
USE GUIDELINES: folic acid can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food. When taking folic acid alone, it is also necessary to take 1000 μg of vitamin B12 a day to prevent its deficiency.
IMPORTANT: dietary supplements containing folic acid may mask anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. If this is not discovered, irreparable damage to the nerves and dementia can occur. So, if you are taking folic acid, take extra amounts of vitamin B12.