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The Importance of Folate In Maintaining Good Health (August 9, 2011)

The importance of folate/folic acid to the human body’s ability to remain in optimal health has recently been emphasized. Folate, or folic acid, is a member of the B vitamin family of supplements. Its main function is to enhance the body’s metabolism and promote and restore cellular growth.

Natural sources of folic acid/folate include foods such as broccoli, green beans, peas, dark leafy lettuce, and spinach. Bananas and lemons are also high in folate. Many products such as pastas and breads are enriched with vitamins, folic acid being one of the supplements these foods are fortified with in order to maintain good health.

While most individuals could benefit from supplementation of folic acid, there are several conditions which require it for good health. Folic acid is one of the most essential vitamin supplements needed during pregnancy. At ideal dosages, folic acid has been proven to decrease the likelihood of pregnant women to develop preeclampsia during the later stages of pregnancy. Birth defects such as spina bifida, as well as other types of birth defects such as anencephaly have a direct correlation to a deficiency of folic acid. Most women are encouraged by their physicians to regularly take a prenatal vitamin that contains extra folic acid in order to counter any ill effects that could occur during pregnancy to the mother and unborn infant alike.

Along with an increased need for folic acid during pregnancy, supplementation of this important vitamin also helps stave off other types of illnesses and disorders that may occur due to a deficiency. One of the most common ailments in which the additional supplementation of folic acid may be helpful is anemia. Anemia effects red blood cell and hemoglobin formation in the blood. Due to the lack of red blood cells in the blood, folic acid is likely to be deficient. Physicians routinely prescribe folic acid to patients suffering from this disorder.

Patients that are prone to gastrointestinal disruptions may also benefit from adding folic acid to their diets. A lack of this essential vitamin may increase the likelihood of digestive problems, including that of diarrhea and nausea. There is also a possible connection between the loss of appetite and low folic acid in the body.

Other health disorders that affect the levels of folic acid are cancer, kidney disease and liver disease. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments are encouraged to take folic acid supplements to counter the ill effects of this harsh therapy on their bodies.

In recent epidemiological studies, folate blood levels have been associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.  These studies have shown as much as a forty percent reduction in risk in participants with the higher dietary intake of folate.  In other recent studies, physicians have been examining the potential positive effects of folic acid in the treatment of depression. While the use of folic acid in depressed patients is not currently a standard treatment, some physicians have found improved mood and affect when folic acid is added to treatment of depression as an adjunct to antidepressants. 

Safe amounts of folic acid supplementation should be decided by a physician due to the potential side effects of improper dosage. Too much folic acid/folate can lead to health problems such as nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal upsets. 

Folic acid/folate is a vital key to improving physical health and vitality. Proper levels of this vitamin in the body can lead to better health and overall well-being. Levels of folate in you body can be measured most effectively using a folate blood test.