Folic Acid – What It Is, Benefits, Foods, and Side Effects!

Folic acid  is a B-group vitamin, sometimes referred to as vitamin B9. Specifically, folates are the naturally occurring compounds in foods. Furthermore, the name derives from the Latin folium, leaf, and the official name is pteroylmonoglutammic acid, but is better known as vitamin M or B9.

While folic acid is the term that refers to the chemical synthesis molecule present in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.

What is folic acid ?

The presence of this vitamin is important in the body. Small amounts should be taken every day. This essential nutrient is found in common foods. Large amounts are present in fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables such as spinach , Swiss chard , turnip greens and lettuces, especially romaine lettuce.

The lack of these foods in your diet probably causes a deficiency of this vitamin. Low levels of this element can be caused by birth defects, megaloblastic anemia conditions, as well as diseases of a different nature.

In particular circumstances, as in the case of pregnant women, the importance of this vitamin is greater. Thanks to its presence, help is obtained for the prevention of problems and defects that can affect the brain or spine of the unborn future.

Folic Acid is essential for yet other reasons: it enables the production of DNA, RNA, red blood cells and hence supports the production of new cells as well as the metabolism of homocysteine ​​from amino acids.

Foods rich in folic acid :

Maybe you’re thinking about going to the drugstore to buy a folic acid -based vitamin supplement . It’s not the best solution. At least if it has not been recommended by our specialist doctor, psychiatrist or nutritionist.

The ideal is to act according to our needs. If we currently do not suffer from any associated disorders, we should limit ourselves to including or maintaining this vitamin in our diet. Some rich foods are easily available in any supermarket. Here is a list:

Foods Rich in Folic AcidPortionAmount of Folic Acid
Beet100 g68 mcg
cooked noodles140 g98 mcg
boiled okra100 g134 mcg
Peanut72 g90 mcg
cooked green soybeans90 g100 mcg
lentils100 g179 mcg
boiled spinach95 g103 mcg
boiled broccoli1 cup78 mcg
White rice100 g48 mcg
boiled black beans86 g128 mcg

What is folic acid used for ?

Folic Acid thus has a powerful anti-anemic function and helps the heart, the circulatory system, it is also essential for the nervous system and bone marrow. Here are more functions of this vitamin:

  1. Lowers homocysteine ​​in the blood;
  2. Prevents the baby from being born underweight;
  3. Benefits the bone marrow;
  4. Produces red blood cells;
  5. Transformation of proteins into energy;
  6. It benefits mental health;
  7. It has metabolic functions;
  8. Prevents anemia ;
  9. Prevents depression ;
  10. Good functioning of the nervous system;
  11. Prevents neonatal malformations;
  12. It benefits the heart and circulation.

Folic acid in pregnancy:

These are the best known benefits and for which the integration of folic acid  during pregnancy.

Taking folic acid  during pregnancy is essential for the proper development of the fetus, especially for the prevention of certain birth defects of the neural tube – the structure that will create the nervous system and spinal column in the first few weeks of pregnancy – such as spina bifida (the spine develops two endings instead of one), anencephaly (lost or incorrect brain development).

Spina bifida involves problems of various types, some correctable with surgery, while others cannot be solved by surgery, such as paralysis of the lower limbs, difficulty in controlling the bowel and bladder, difficulties in physical and mental development. Children with anencephaly die before birth or newborns.

This vitamin also appears to play a role in preventing other birth defects and malformations (labiopalatoschisis, some heart defects).

What is the dose of folic acid?

This vitamin becomes toxic if taken in large amounts. The administration of folic acid contained in multivitamins or prenatal vitamins limits the risk of toxicity that the substance presents, compared to the case when it is taken through supplements almost exclusively enriched with it. In any case, the doses must be contained within the recommended minimum limits.

The recommended doses for adults correspond to a dose of 800 mcg of folic acid  per day. Most of this amount must come from the diet, however special conditions or otherwise in cases where deficiencies of this substance occur, may require the intake of this vitamin through food supplements. These compounds are often used during pregnancy and lactation to achieve recommended minimum daily levels.

It is important for pregnant women to consume adequate levels of this vitamin not only during pregnancy but also before. For women of childbearing age, a minimum daily intake ranging from 400 to 800 mcg of this vitamin is recommended. In any case, folic acid intake  should not exceed 1000 mcg per day. Excess of this vitamin inhibits the absorption of vitamin B12 .

When is folic acid supplementation necessary?

Folic acid supplements  are mainly prescribed during pregnancy to prevent fetal malformations, but there may be other cases where supplements are recommended by the doctor, for example, when following a diet low in folate, with few fruits and vegetables, and when blood homocysteine ​​levels are high and can pose risks to circulation.

Recent studies have shown some properties of this vitamin in preventing cancer. Low levels of this vitamin in the blood have been found to increase the risk of some types of cancer.

Cells, on the other hand, require the presence of this substance to create and maintain, over time, cells and DNA in good condition. Because of this link, it is inevitable that an insufficient presence of folate will inhibit the body’s ability to repair damaged cells. Thus, this condition is favorable for the production and development of cells that have abnormalities, that is, they are cancerous.

Signs of folic acid deficiency :

It is no coincidence that folic acid  was discovered by studying cases of anemia . Anemia is the greatest pathological risk in case of folic acid deficiency . Vitamin B is essential, among other things, for cell development, especially for red blood cells. Deficiency of this vitamin can occur due to lack or difficulties of absorption.

In the first case, it is due to dietary problems. A diet low in foods that contain folic acid  inevitably leads to anemia if not supplemented. In the second case, the lack of absorption may be due to kidney problems, such as in dialysis patients, or in alcoholics. However, some anti-cancer drugs or drugs to fight rheumatoid arthritis can cause difficulties in the absorption of folic acid .

Folic acid side effects :

Taking supplements with this vitamin is not safe for everyone. Before starting a treatment based on supplements enriched with this substance, it is advisable to consult a doctor and make sure that you can take folic acid  in supplements without running the risk of encountering problems.

Individuals with kidney disease, anemia , infections, or regular alcohol abuse should undeniably pay more attention to consuming folate supplements.
Side effects associated with supplemental folic acid consumption  can include: nausea , stomach bloating, loss of appetite, depression , irritability, sleep disturbances, allergic reactions, and finally, feeling an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Folic acid can have other adverse effects, which can interact with certain types of medications, including antibiotics, barbiturates, pyrimethamine, methotrexate, phenytoin, and nitrofurantoin. Assuming an anticonvulsant drug and at the same time associating it with a folic acid supplement  in high doses, it is possible to cause, in a similar way to the previous case, an adverse reaction with the consequent appearance of epileptic seizures.

If you regularly take medications belonging to the types listed and in the event that at the same time you must take supplements with this vitamin, it is enough to adjust the doses of the latter, with the support of your doctor, in order to avoid possible effects.

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