Folic Acid: Benefits, Side effects and Sources

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benefits of folic acid

Vitamins are a group of substances that are important for total health, normal cell function, growth and development. All essential vitamins can be found in food sources as well as supplemented in various forms. Today, we will delve into the B-vitamins family and we will be looking at the Folic Acid

What is folic acid?

Folic acid, a member of the B vitamin family, also called Folate or Vitamin B9.The form found in food, is widely available in many fruits and vegetables. Folic acid is also added to many grains and cereals to further prevent deficiency

Natural sources 

Dried beans, peas, lentils, oranges, and whole-wheat products, liver, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy vegetables, okra, fruits such as banana, melon and lemons.

Functions and uses

If you have ever been bothered or disheartened by the constant small and yellowish tablet that keep cropping up in your medications time after time, here are some indisputable importance of this drug- folic acid…

Folic acid in pregnant women

Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy (during the first trimester) at the right amount can lower the risk of miscarriage in women. It has also been discovered to help in the prevention of some life threatening birth defect oneof which is the neural tube defect.

Anemia

Folic acid helps the body to produce and maintain new cells, and also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. It is also used alongside other medications in the treatment of pernicious anemia.

Alzheimer’s diseaseAlzheimer’s disease and folic acidA recent study of 579 men and women ages 60 and above has shown that folic acid may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Folic acid also may play a key role in preventing overall memory loss associated with old age, age related hearing loss and also reducing signs of aging.

Stroke and other heart diseasesheart-attack-folic-acid

Folic acid appears to reduce the risk of stroke, which may be due to the role that folate plays in regulating homocysteine concentration. Research suggests that taking folic acid daily for at least 6 weeks reduces blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

 

Healthy bones

Researchers in the United States and Holland reported the results of two separate studies in the New England Journal of medicine linking the risk of bone fracture in elderly subjects to elevated homocysteine levels. Both reports suggested that folic acid and other homocysteine lowering B vitamins may play a key role in helping to prevent bone fractures, weak bones and osteoporosis.

In addition to all these, for a skin discolouration disorder called vitiligo, taking folic acid by mouth seems to improve the symptoms of this disorder.

Limited research has also suggested that taking folic acid alongside with antidepressants seems to improve symptoms in people with depression, but it was postulated that intake of some antidepressants like valproate (which can also cause birth defects) and carbamazepine, are liable to cause low red and white blood cells. Therefore folic acid helps to improve the production theses cells.

Side effects of folic acid

Large doses or long term use can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, rash sleep disorders, nausea, stomach upset, gas and also turn the urine bright yellow.

Drug interaction

The demand for folic acid increase when taken with oral contraceptives and alcohol. It’s also capable of reducing the quantity of antiepileptic drugs like Phenytoin and Phenobarbital.

 

 

References

  1. Folic acid; drugs.com
  2. National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. National Institutes of Health, Office of dietary Supplements
  4. Folic ; Natural drug formulary 2008/2009 Edition; Nigeria Based on WHO Model formulary, Page 202 and 670

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