Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin (B9). When thinking of food sources of folate, think green and leafy. It is more stable than other B vitamins and it is often found in fortified foods. Folate is often sprayed on breakfast cereal, so make sure to drink all the milk, because water soluble vitamins (folate and other B vitamins) are washed off into the milk. It is needed for the metabolism of amino-acids. It is unique in the fact that is also needed in the synthesis of DNA and it is absolutely critical for cell division. This explains in part some of the medical uses developed around these functions.

It is essential for the development of the neural tube, which is the embryo's precursor to the central nervous system. Neural tube defects may cause the infant to be born without a portion of his brain. Since 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, all sexually active women of childbearing age should eat enough amounts of this essential vitamin.

What about folate and cancer? A Harvard study suggested that women who took folate for over 15 years had a significant reduction in colon cancer. Other studies suggest that if the cancer is already present, folate may fuel the disease, given its role in cell division. Folate may actually provide the fuel to continue that cancer on its growth path. If you have cancer, this vitamin probably is not what you would want to be taking.

The body absorbs about 100% of folate in fortified foods and supplements if they are taken on an empty stomach. The folic acid that is sprayed on breakfast cereal is actually more biologically available than the folate in food. 85% is going to be absorbed if other foods are present in that meal. Between 50% and 75% of folate naturally occurring in foods is absorbed by your body.

Folic acid is extremely vulnerable to heat. Heat can destroy up to 90% of food folate. Vitamin C can actually aid in the protection of folate.

Until recently, folate was one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States. In 1998, the level of folate that was added to food was increased, which improved the blood levels of Americans and reduced the incident of neural tube defects.

Folate deficiency influences red blood cell development, resulting in blood cells that are poorly formed. This disease is called macrocytic anemia. Deficiency also impairs the synthesis of white blood cells and compromises the immune system. Any rapidly growing cell is quickly affected by folate deficiency, including the mouth.

Prescription medicines are out there that may actually act as a folate-antagonist, causing a deficiency intentionally. There are times when we want to halt cell division. Consult your doctor if you have any health problem.

This vitamin doesn’t have any known toxicity.

Daily Requirements

Adults: 400 micrograms.

Foods High in Folic Acid

1 cup spinach, boiled262 micrograms
1 cup broccoli, steamed94 micrograms
1 cup Brussel sprouts, boiled93.5 micrograms
1 cup green peas, boiled101 micrograms
1 orange39 micrograms
1 papaya115.5 micrograms

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