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Folate - Folic Acid or Vitamin BC

Folic acid is crucial in the development of the fetus. Folate (folic acid) is a nutrient that is often deficient because it is so fragile. Though folic acid is present in many foods, its content in food is greatly diminished by cooking and is progressively lowered the longer food is stored after picking. Because of this folic acid deficiencies are extremely common.

Vitamin B12 must always accompany folic acid supplementation to prevent the folic acid supplement from masking a vitamin B12 deficiency. Folic acid will correct anemia associated with the vitamin B12 deficiency but will not remedy the problems that the B12 deficiency causes in the nervous system and brain. Folic acid is extremely important for proper fetal development and prevention of heart disease.

The functions of folic acid

Folic acid works synergistically with vitamin B12 in many of the body's processes.

It is critical for:

The symptoms and signs of folic acid deficiency

A folic acid deficiency effects all cells in the body, but the rapidly dividing cells such as red blood cells and cells of the GI tract are most notably affected. Some of the symptoms caused by a folic acid deficiency are:

Therapeutic uses

Folic acid is used in:

Folic acid is available as folinic acid (5-methyl-tetra-hydrofolate). Supplementing with this form is more effective in raising levels of folic acid in the body because it relieves the body of the job of converting the folic acid into folinic acid.

Food Sources of folic acid

All dark leafy greens (the foliage that folic acid is named after) are good food sources of folic acid. These include: kale, spinach, beet greens, and chard. Other sources are brewer's and nutritional yeast, rice germ, wheat germ, blackeye peas, beans and lentils, asparagus, liver, soybeans, wheat bran, and walnuts.

How much to take

400 - 800 mcg daily with meals.

Special Precautions

High doses of folic acid (5-10mg) may cause gas, poor appetite, and stomach upset. Those with epilepsy should avoid folic acid in high doses, because it may result in increased occurrence of seizures.

If taking pancreatic enzymes, which may reduce folic acid absorption, take the two supplements four to six hours apart.

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Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

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Alcohol consumption impairs folic acid absorption, disrupts folic acid metabolism, and causes the body to excrete folic acid. Deficiency is common among pregnant women. Drugs such as anti-cancer drugs, drugs for epilepsy, and oral contraceptives also deplete folic acid. Folic acid deficiency will result in diarrhea and malabsorption and the same type of anemia caused by B-12 deficiency.