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Folic acid sources, health benefits and uses

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 by

Folic acid (vitamin B9 or folate) is a collective term for pteroylglutamic acids, which are a polycyclic heterocyclic carboxylic acid of the vitamin B complex and are essential for hematopoiesis or cell growth and reproduction. It has a role in carbon transfer reactions of amino acid metabolism, in addition to purine and pyrimidine synthesis.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 and is found in supplements and fortified foods, while folate is naturally-occurring in foods.

Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that can be obtained by eating green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, lettuce, chard, asparagus, and collards, and other foods such as bread, cereal, dry beans, lima beans, liver, kidney, milk, mushrooms, peanuts, sweet corn, and whole wheat products.

It is involved in the critical biosynthetic pathways that facilitate the transfer of methyl groups to organic compounds. Contrary to popular belief, there is no physiological evidence that high doses of folic acid cause liver injury or jaundice.

Folic acid is an odorless substance. Folic acid aqueous solutions decompose fast when exposed to light and/or riboflavin (vitamin B2). It is deemed stable at four degrees Celsius.

The liver has over 50 percent of the body stores of folate, or aboout six to 14 milligrams. The total storage of folate in the body is around 12 to 28 mg. Orally administered folic acid have been recovered from feces. Around 0.05 mg of normal folate body stores is lost daily through a combination of urinary and fecal excretion.

Meanwhile, folate is excreted in the bile and much of it is reabsorbed via the enterohepatic circulation or the circulation of substances from the liver to the bile, then entry into the small intestine, abdorption by the enterocyte, and transported back to the liver.

Folic acid is also obtained from the milk of lactating mothers. It can also be taken via lozenges, soft gels, and tablets. Folic acid may interfere with the effects of medication such as sulfasalazine (used to treat inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis); triamterine (a diuretic); and trimethoprim (an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections).

Medicinal uses for folic acid

Folic acid works in tandem with cobalamin (vitamin B12) in producing red blood cells and helps transport iron throughout the body.

Folic acid is recommended for people who are suffering from chronic fever, chronic hemodialysis, prolonged stress, alcoholism, gastrectomy (a surgical procedure involving the stomach), hemolytic anemia, intestinal disease (tropical sprue, celiac disease, persistent diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease), and malabsorption syndromes associated with hepatic-biliary disease (alcoholism with cirrhosis, hepatic function impairment).

Folic is also a recommended vitamin for babies who are suffering from ailments such as low birth weight or those who are receiving unfortified formulas such as evaporated milk or goat’s milk. To ensure that women will bear a healthy child, women of reproductive age are recommended to take a dose of 400 micrograms per day, while pregnant women should have at least 600 mg of folic acid each day.

A word of caution, however: decreased cobalamin concentration may occur in patients who are getting prolonged folic acid therapy; oral doses of five mg of folic acid daily can result in neurological ailments. The recommended daily allowance of folate for healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 50 years is 0.4 mg.

A deficiency in folic acid can result in gingivitis, diarrhea, irritability, forgetfulness, loss of appetite, mental slugishness, poor growth, shortness of breath, and tongue inflammation, among others. Also, pregnant women should avoid losing too much folic acid in their bodies to lower the risk of neural tube birth defects (improper development of the neural tube, which makes the brain and the spinal cord), spina bifida, brain damage, and cleft palate. Folic acid intake is also said to help decrease the risks of a miscarriage.

Body systems supported by folic acid

Folic acid is good for the central nervous system. It is also critical for emotional health as it helps stabilize moods. It is essential in the production of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), the body’s genetic material, and are needed by cells and tissues to grow rapidly.

Folic acid is good for the cardiovascular system. It helps control the production of homocysteine levels in the body, along with cobalamin and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). Homocysteine is an amino acid that is associated with heart ailments -people with high homocysteine levels in their body are 1.7 times more prone to developing coronary heart disease and 2.5 times more prone to having a stroke.

Folic acid is good for the ocular system. A study showed that women who took 2,500 mcg of folic acid along with 500 mg of pyridoxine and 1,000 mcg of cyanocobalamin daily lowered their risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Where to learn more


Folic acid is good for the central nervous, cardiovascular, and ocular systems.

Folic acid works in tandem with cobalamin (vitamin B12) in producing red blood cells.

Folic acid intake is said to help decrease the risks of a miscarriage.

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