What's folic acid
Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin which is the synthetic form that can be taken from supplements, while the folate is the natural form which is found in food (Mainly uncooked). So diet is the major source yet not the only one as it's known that the amount of folic acid excreted in urine and feces is more than that taken in diet, which indicates that it's also synthesized by the body, more precisely intestinal flora.
Why It's Important
Folic acid is important for various functions in our bodies, including:
- Making new cells/cell division
- Make normal-shaped red blood cells/ Prevent anemia
- Help prevent birth defects (ex: spina bifida)
- Help prevent heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
We will go over its importance in pregnancy and other aspects in details in the coming paragraphs.
Folic acid in pregnancy:
Folic acid is important during pregnancy as it helps to form the neural tube early in pregnancy. So any deficiency in folic acid for pregnant women may lead to neural tube defects in the developing fetus, leading to spina bifida.
Spina bifida: "When the neural tube doesn’t close all the way, the backbone that protects the spinal cord doesn’t form and close as it should."
Adults, including women in their reproductive stage, require around 400mcg/day of folic acid. Yet for the women who have already had babies with spina bifida defects they should take 4000mcg/day which is 10 times more than normal to prevent the recurrence of such defects.
Cardiovascular Disease And Cancer
Folic acid and other B vitamins are responsible for breaking down homocysteine in our bodies and converting it to methionine, so that will prevent the accumulation of it homocysteine in our bodies. But what does homocysteine do?
Too much homocysteine increases the risk of CHD (Coronary heart disease), and stroke. Also, homocysteine may damage the inner lining of arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and blood clots. That's why we need the folic acid, to break it down and prevent the occurrence of these diseases.
About cancers: Folic acid is important for normal synthesis, function and repair of DNA, as it's one of folic acid's metabolic roles, so deficiencies in folic acid may damage the DNA and lead to cancer, especially colorectal cancer and colorectal adenomas.
What could affect our folic acid status?
Folic acid level in our body can be affected by factors like: Genetic variations, inadequate intake or malabsorption, and interaction with medications.
And it's important to mention that alcoholism leads to impaired absorption and poor diet, so better be careful and not drink a lot.
Folic acid plays various roles in our bodies and is essential to keep us healthy, so we should consider including it in our diets, especially the natural form and remember that uncooked food has more folate than cooked ones.
Stay healthy and safe, until next time