Folic Acid - Importance, Deficiencies & Supplementation
Folic acid is a water-soluble B-vitamin and a synthetic form of folate. Also known as pteroglutamic acid or vitamin B9, folic acid is involved in carbon transfer reactions of amino metabolism, it is essential for red blood cell production. Folic acid is a cofactor for enzymes involved in DNA and RNA synthesis, it is involved in many bodily functions including cell repair, cell maintenance, the synthesis of purines, pyrimidines, protein metabolism, and maintenance of normal homocysteine levels. Folic acid was first discovered by Lucy Wills, a pioneering researcher in 1931. Humans don’t synthesize folic acid endogenously, intake through diet and supplementation are necessary to prevent deficiencies.
FOODS HIGH IN FOLATE
- Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts
- Citrus fruits especially oranges
- Nuts, chickpeas, kidney beans
- Meat, eggs, seafood, poultry
- Cereals fortified with folic acid
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FOLIC ACID & FOLATE?
Folic acid and Folate terms are often being confused. While folate is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B9, folic acid is the synthetic (man-made) form of vitamin B9. The molecular structure of folic acid is identical to folate. Folic acid is molecularly stable and is easily absorbed by the body. Folic acid is most commonly used in supplements and in fortified foods.
MECHANISM OF ABSORPTION OF FOLIC ACID
Upon consumption of folic acid supplement, the body converts it into an active form that can be used by the body. Folic acid gets reduced into its metabolically active form dihydrofolate (DHF) and tetrahydrofolate (THF) by the enzymes dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Following oral administration, folic acid reaches the peak levels of absorption within 1 hour upon supplementation.
SYMPTOMS OF DEFICIENCY OF FOLIC ACID
Symptoms of deficiency of folic acid are often subtle and can go unnoticed.
Fatigue, tiring easily, muscle weakness, swelling of the tongue, ulcers on tongue, irritability, nausea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, tingling of fingers, burning sensation, or numbness in the extremities, confusion, problems of understanding, pale skin, reduced ability to carry oxygen, megaloblastic anemia are some of the commonly seen symptoms related to folic acid deficiency.
WHAT CAUSES FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY?
- Eating overcooked fruits and vegetables
- Consumption of nutritionally insufficient diet /low dietary intake due to medical restrictions
- Malabsorption due to age, liver problems, or gastrointestinal problems like inflammatory bowel disease, diaarhoea.
- Alcohol-related liver damage
- Taking certain medication
ZENITH NUTRITION FOLIC ACID
Zenith Nutrition Folic Acid is a vegetarian dietary supplement that offers 2000mcg folic acid. The vegetarian dietary supplement gets manufactured in a GMP-certified unit and goes through extensive testing for purity and potency. The supplement is free of sugar, preservatives, corn, soy, dairy, yeast, and gluten.
WHY SHOULD ONE SUPPLEMENT WITH FOLIC ACID?
Although most people get sufficient folate from their diets, in some cases, the body may increase demand. Also, natural folates are quite unstable compounds, so the loss in vitamin activity is expected during food processing. About 40% of folate gets destroyed when cooking grains, cereals, vegetables. Folic acid (synthetic folate) is almost 100% bioavailable when taken in the fasting state (on empty stomach). The bioavailability of naturally occurring folate in food is about 50% and the bioavailability of synthetic folic acid, when consumed with meals, ranges from 85 to 100%. Folate is a water-soluble vitamin which means it is not stored in the fat tissues of the body, your blood levels of the vitamin will go low unless supplied with regular adequate intake.
FOLIC ACID IS CRUCIAL VITAMIN FOR HEART HEALTH
Studies suggest homocysteine to be an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis. Homocysteine is a sulfhydryl-containing amino acid mainly formed from the essential amino acid methionine. Homocysteine is known to mediate cardiac problems by its adverse effects on cardiovascular endothelium and smooth muscle cells with resultant alterations in arterial structure and function. Increased level of homocysteine has been associated with oxidative stress, increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Studies suggest that homocysteine levels can be modifiable by nutrition and folic acid is an important dietary determinant of folic acid. Prominent observational studies have suggested the role of folic acid in promoting heart health. Supplementation with folic acid can normalize high homocysteine levels by remethylation of homocysteine to methionine via methionine synthetase.
FOLIC ACID IS ASSOCIATED WITH COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE
The association of folate deficiency, as reflected by low concentration of folate in serum, red blood cells, and cerebrospinal fluid and raised concentrations of homocysteine has shown to correlate with mental symptoms like cognitive decline. Folic acid has particular effects on mood and impaired folate metabolism may result in a pattern of cognitive dysfunction especially in older people. Studies have found that folic acid is crucial for proper brain functioning, it is involved in synthesis of neurotransmitters. Folic acid supplementation is found to improve blood levels of folate, limit inflammation linked to degenerative brain disorders. Folic acid supports the remethylation of homocysteine into methionine. Folic acid is known to help with mental fatigue, irritability, dementia.
FOLIC ACID PROMOTES SKIN & HAIR HEALTH
Folic acid supplementation plays a key role in promoting the body’s cell production process, including the cells that make up your hair, skin, and other parts of your body.
The deficiency of folic acid represents a modifiable risk factor associated with skin and hair health. Folic acid is involved in the production of healthy new cells, helps to improve moisture retention, alleviates skin dryness, reduces the intensity of acne, reduces oxidative stress in the skin. Folic acid promotes the health of hair follicles by increasing the formation of red blood cells in the body which increases oxygen supply to hair follicles. Without proper oxygen supply, the hair follicles will have a harder time producing keratin. Folic acid reduces the rate of premature greying of hair, promotes new hair growth, and increases hair volume.
FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY MAY CAUSE ANEMIA
Folic acid is found to be an antianemic vitamin. Folic acid serves as the building block for the production of healthy red blood cells and low levels of the vitamin can inhibit the synthesis of RBC. A folic acid deficiency which means low levels of folic acid in the blood can be a leading cause of megaloblastic anemia (a condition in which red blood cells are larger than normal). This condition is caused due to impaired DNA synthesis, which inhibits nuclear division. Megaloblastic anemia results when a lack of folate causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly. Megaloblastic anemia causes lack of energy, lightheadedness, muscle weakness, palpitation, irritability.
FOLIC ACID BENEFITS FOR WOMEN
One of the most important ways to ensure healthy pregnancy is to get enough folic acid prior to conception. The vital vitamin is important for making those cell reproductions possible. Ensuring proper levels of folic acid in women prior to conception can reduce neural tube defects of the spinal cord, such as spina bifida. These birth defects can happen in the first weeks of pregnancy when your baby is already reproducing those neurological cells that are vital for the development of brain and spine. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of supplementation of folic acid starting before conception to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defect.