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Folic acid Foods – Benefits & Deficiency Symptoms

Folate and folic acid are forms of a water soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid also referred to as vitamin B9 or vitamin M. Folic acid or folacin word came from the Latin word folium means leaf. Folic acid is abundantly found in green leafy vegetables. It is important for one carbon metabolism and is required for the synthesis of certain amino acids, purines and the pyrimidine-thymine. The active form of folic acid is tetrahydrofolate.

What are the Functions of folic acid?

  • Folic acid is needed for the proper development of the human body. It involved in producing the genetic material called DNA and in numerous other bodily functions
  • Tetrahydrofolate, the coenzyme of folic acid is actively involved in the one carbon metabolism
  • Folic acid helps in the production of the healthy red blood cells
  • Folic acid helps in rapid cell division and cell growth
  • Enhances brain health
  • Folic acid is necessary for fertility in both men and women. It contributes in spermatogenesis

Why folic acid is important in pregnancy?

folic-acid rich foodsFolic acid helps protect against a number of congenital malformations, including neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are severe abnormalities of the central nervous system that develop in embryos during the first few weeks of pregnancy resulting in malformations of the spine, skull and brain. Most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and ancephaly. Folic acid reduce the risk of congenital heart defects, cleft lip, limb defects and urinary tract anomalies. Folic acid deficiency increase the risk of preterm delivery, infant low birth weight and fetal growth retardation.

Why doctors prescribe folic acid supplements during pregnancy?

Folic acid reduces the pregnancy complications such as placental abruption and pre-eclamplasia. Folic acid supplements may also protect the fetus against disease when the mother is battling a disease or taking medication or smoking during pregnancy.

What is the recommended dietary allowance for folic acid?

  • Birth to 6 months                                       65 mcg
  • 7-12 months                                               80 mcg
  • 1-3 years                                                     150 mcg
  • 4-8 years                                                     200 mcg
  • 9-13 years                                                   300 mcg
  • 14-18 years                                                 400 mcg
  • 19+ years                                                    400 mcg
  • Pregnant women                                         600 mcg
  • Lactating women                                         500 mcg

What are the Food sources of Folic acid?

Dark green vegetables are good sources of folic acid. Folic acid content decreases due to over cooking.

  • Spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens
  • Asparagus
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Liver, kidney
  • Citrus fruits: papaya, oranges, strawberries, raspberries
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower seeds, peanuts, flaxseeds, almonds
  • Cauliflower, beets, corn, celery, carrots
  • Cabbage, potato
  • Egg yolk
  • Milk is a rather poor source of folic acid
  • Whole wheat bread usually fortified

What is the Symptoms of Folic acid Deficiency?

Folic acid deficiency is probably the most common vitamin deficiency, observed primarily in the pregnant women, in both developed and developing countries.

  • The macrocytic anemia associated with megaloblastic changes in bone marrow is a characteristic feature of folate deficiency. Symptoms of anemia are pale skin, lethargy, persistent fatigue, tender tongue, irritability, diarrhea
  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Grey hair
  • Mouth sores
  • Tongue swelling
  • Growth problems
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Being irritable

What are the Causes of folic acid Deficiency?

  • Taking diet low in folic acid
  • Over cooking of foods
  • Crohn’s disease and celiac disease can affect the absorption of the folic acid
  • Certain medications can cause folic acid deficiency such as phenytoin, sulfasalazine
  • Excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol interfere with folic acid absorption and also increases folate excretion through the urine

What is the treatment for folic acid deficiency?

To treat folic acid deficiency anemia, your doctor will usually prescribe daily folic acid tablets to build up your folate levels. The doctor may also give you dietary advice so you can increase your folate intake. Folic acid is frequently combined with other B vitamins in supplements. Alcohol intake should be decreased and completely eliminated for pregnant women. People who take medications known to cause folic acid deficiency should take supplements as well on doctors advice.

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