Folic Acid - Gateway To Good Health?

by Michael Parris - Date: 2007-03-30 - Word Count: 567 Share This!

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women are still not getting adequate amounts of folate in their diet.

Important? Consider the importance of this little vitamin. Folate plays a vital role in DNA synthesis, is required for synthesis of methionine (an essential amino acid), and required for the metabolism of other important amino acids.

If this is the first time you have heard of folate, you might be in the majority. Folate is the anion form of Vitamin B9. Folic acid, the more recognized form of Vitamin B9, is most commonly found in fortified foods and dietary supplements.

Supplementation of folic acid is most notable in pregnant women for the prevention of birth defects. Approximately 3,000 birth defects are reported yearly in the United States despite efforts of fortification in our foods.

Rapid cell growth is a distinct characteristic of fetal growth. Adequate levels of folate are critical for proper DNA and RNA synthesis. Proper folate intake is necessary for the production, health, and growth of new cells.

Fortunately, 84% of women surveyed in a recent March of Dimes Gallup survey had heard of folic acid. However, only 9% mentioned it as a way to prevent birth defects when asked if there were ways to prevent it. It doesn't stop there.

The most critical time of folate supplementation occurs before and during early pregnancy. Only 7% of respondents knew this. Maybe this is the reason for the high birth defects in this country.

Did you know that studies have shown if all women were to consume the RDA of 600 mcg of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, birth defects could be prevented up to the tune of 70%? But folic acid isn't just for women?

A significant body of science exists to support the use of folic acid in the prevention of other chronic diseases.

One such disease is heart disease. Did you know that an American has a heart attack every 20 seconds and dies from heart disease every 34 seconds? Staggering!

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the body as a result of methionine synthesis (an essential amino acid required for protein synthesis). High levels of homocysteine in the body have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Studies have found that adequate levels of the vitamins folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 have a profound effect of controlling homocysteine levels within the blood thereby reducing one's overall risk of heart disease, vascular disease and stroke.

Additionally, studies have shown that a diminished status of folate in the body can be linked to certain types of cancers and cognitive impairment (brain function). Although this body of evidence exists, it is still not conclusive.

It now begs the question: What are you doing to ensure adequate folate / folic acid intake?

Ample evidence suggests that diet alone cannot provide adequate folate necessary for normal body function even though green leafy vegetables like spinach are rich sources of folate.

However, recent E. coli concerns in our vegetable supply and the convenience of fast food make it hard to eat a diet rich in folate. It, therefore, makes good sense to fall back on an insurance policy, like vitamin supplementation.

Whether you supplement with a tablet, capsule, or liquids (ever more popular now for ease of intake), intake of a multivitamin with minerals with at least 400 mcg of folic acid should be part of your overall dietary intake of folate.

Related Tags: folic acid, homocysteine, supplementation, birth defect

Michael Parris is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and founder of Asteroid Nutrition, a company with the mission to positively impact lives through proper nutrition and education. Asteroid Nutrition proudly offers the VEMMA Nutrition Program. For more info, surf on over to

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