Folic Acid Facts
The first time many of us hear about folic acid is during pregnancy and rarely before.
Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9 or folate and it is an essential vitamin to various bodily functions such as rapid cell division and growth. The name is derived from the Latin word folium, it means leaf and it is no surprise that the main of folic acid are the dark green leafy vegetables.
Folic acid supplements are generally used for preventing anemia, protecting newborns from birth defects in brain and the spinal cord, generating energy and replicating DNA in your body, preventing heart attacks, some types of cancer, skin ulcers and depression. Folic acid is also believed to be a factor in reducing the loss of memory, concentration, judgment which usually lead to cognitive decline and dementia.
Food sources of folate include dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli, swiss chard, avocados, brussels sprouts, beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, pinto beans, peas, orange juice, oranges, mandarines, wheat germ, whole grains, chicken, turkey, beef, pork and fortified cereals.
Recommended folic acid dose for a healthy adult is 400 micrograms. This goes up to 500 micrograms for breast feeding women and 600 micrograms for pregnant women. No more than 900 – 1000 micrograms should be consumed as excess folate can inhibit vitamin B12 absorption.
Folic acid deficiency can occur in case of not eating enough of foods that are rich in folic acid. In early stages- the first few months of the deficiency you may not even notice it. It may start showing itself with headaches, palpitations, diarrhea, fatigue and weakness, irritation, appetite and weight loss, chest pain and shortness of breath.
Increased folate intake may be needed in case of anemia, liver disease, being on kidney dialysis, excessive alcohol abuse, celiac and gastric diseases, pregnancy and breast feeding.
Women who are planning to get pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday. It is particularly important for pregnant women. When folic acid is consumed at least twelve weeks before giving birth, it is believed to help prevent birth defects and infant spinal cord defects such as spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Medications that Interfere with Folate:
Some of the medications that interfere with folic acid use includeMysoline for seizures, anticonvulsant Dilantin and Primidone, Tegretol, Metformin to control blood glucose, Dyrenium for high blood pressure, Azulfidine for ulcerative colitis, diuretic Triamterene, sedative Barbiturates and Methotrexate used for cancer.
Folic acid side effects, although not common, can be experienced in case of overdose- more than 1000 mcg per day, and include excessive flatulence, abdominal swelling and cramps, swelling of the face, skin rashes, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, hyperactivity, irritability, insomnia, gas and bloating, nausea, vomiting, zinc deficiency and concentration problems. Large doses of folic acid- at around 5000 mcg may also mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, which may lead to neurologic damage especially in elderly.