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Folic Acid (Folate - Vitamin B9) Benefits and Signs of Deficiency

Benefits and Functions of Folic Acid (Vitamin B9):

Folic acid (Vitamin B9), also known as folate, functions as a coenzyme during the synthesis of genetic material (DNA). It is also a vital component for cellular division, and the normal growth, development, function, and reproduction of all cells. Folic acid plays a role in all processes that depend on cell division.

Folic acid is necessary to help regulate the formation of both red and white blood cells. It also aids in the elimination of homocysteine from the body, a blood toxin which can negatively impact the heart muscle and contribute to the deposit of cholesterol in the heart.

Folate helps to promote a healthy pregnancy by acting to regulate the development of the fetus' central nervous system. Folic acid is vital for all growth phases of human life, including being pregnant, lactating and early development due to the critical role that folic acid has in the synthesis of DNA, RNA and protein. Folic acid is used to help prevent certain birth defects, most notably neural tube defects.

Vitamin B9 can help in the treatment of patients suffering from anemia resulting from a folic acid deficiency. Synthetic folic acid supplements can be used to treat these disorders resulting from folate deficiency. Folic acid supplements may also be included as part of the prescribed treatment of particularly menstruation-related problems and some leg ulcers.

Folic acid plays a part in metabolizing proteins. It works in conjunction with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help in the digestion and use of proteins, and to help produce new protein when required.

Folate helps to increase the appetite, if necessary, and also stimulates the creation of stomach acids for proper digestion. It also helps to maintain liver health.

Vitamin B9 helps iron to function correctly in the body.

Folic acid is a critical chemical for maintaining proper brain function and is integral for good mental and emotional health.

 

Signs of Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Deficiency:

Folic acid deficiency is one of the more widespread vitamin deficiencies and often occurs in alcoholics, women who are pregnant, in people who have problems with absorption (with inflammatory bowel disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease), and in people who are taking some prescribed medicines (like methotrexate and cholestyramine). A folate deficiency may happen due to a lack of dietary consumption or because of a problem absorbing it via the intestines.

Signs of folic acid deficiency are often quite subtle. In many cases a folic acid deficiency occurs without any noticable symptoms.

Symptoms of folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency include anemia and mood disorders. Low levels of folic acid may contribute to depression, possibly because of a resulting lowering of neurotransmitter levels.

Poor dietary intake of folic acid can result in growth retardation, macrocytic anemia, glossitis, and gastro-intestinal disorders.

In more extreme cases of folic acid deficiency, symptoms including macrocytic anaemia, weakness, fatigue, mood instability, problems breathing, anorexia, diarrhea, weight loss, headaches, and palpitations may occur.

Folate deficiency seems to be connected to cervical dysplasia. It has also been linked with coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.

The daily requirement for folic acid intake increases substantially during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are folate deficient have an elevated risk for giving birth to infants who have a low birth weight, are premature, and/or babies who suffer from neural tube defects. Neural tube defects can include such things as cleft palate, spina bifida, or even brain damage. Neural tube defects (NTDs) impact almost 4,000 pregnancies in the U.S. every year. The Center for Disease Control and the United States Public Health Service have estimated that an intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid each day could possibly result in the prevention of almost 70% of birth defects.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Toxicity, Overdose:

Toxicity resulting from excessive folic acid consumption is a rare occurrence since vitamin B9 is a water soluble vitamin which is easily excreted by the body. However, the daily intake level of folate should not exceed 1,000 mcg for adults. Mega-doses of folic acid do not have any added therapeutic benefits. Extremely large dosages (more than 15,000 mcg) can result in digestive problems, insomnia, skin reactions, and even seizures.

Zinc, estrogen, anticonvulsant drugs, and sulfasalazine may be less efficiencly absorbed if taken with folic acid. Folate taken in high dosages (5 to 30 mg) has been shown to result in a possible increase in the frequency of seizures for people who suffer from epilepsy.

A daily intake of more than 1000 mcg of folic acid could mask the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

More Information:

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Overview

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Daily Requirement, Dietary Sources

 

 

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