Header Graphic

All You Want To Know About Folic Acid

Whenever a woman finds out that she is pregnant, she is immediately advised by her doctor to take prenatal vitamins which include folic acid. She is also advised to include in her diet a lot of leafy vegetables, and even liver which are good sources of folic acid. But what is it in folic acid that is needed by a pregnant woman? Is it only pregnant women who need folic acid in their body?

Folic acid, or folate is one of the important vitamins needed in the body. Since animals do not synthesize their own folic acid, they need to have it in their diet. Pregnant women need folic acid not actually for themselves but for the developing fetus. Taking in folic acid ensures that the incidence of the fetus developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida is decreased. It also prevents the occurrence of anemia. However, folic acid is also needed by everyone else for the normal functioning of the body especially for new cell maintenance and production.

Folic acid, an anion of vitamin B9 can easily be acquired through several vegetables, especially the leafy ones such as lettuce, turnip greens, and spinach. It can also be found in peas, beans and sunflower seeds. Some cereals are fortified with folic acid, for up to a hundred percent of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid.

DNA replication also needs folate to take place since folic acid is found to play a part in DNA synthesis, specifically methylenetetrahydrofolate. Thus, when it is found to be deficient in the body, the areas where fast cell division and growth occurs such as the bone marrow are affected. This leads to a production of megaloblasts, or giant blood cells due to an increase in the RNA and protein synthesis. This condition is known to be megaloblastic anemia.

There are a lot of occasions when folate can be deficient from the body such as lack of folic acid in the diet, when the body needs more folate than usual, or when the body gets rid of folate from the body in a rate that is more than the normal one. There are even studies that show too much exposure to sunlight such as during tanning may lead to a deficiency in folic acid. The body usually needs more folate during pregnancy as well as breastfeeding; also, in the presence of tobacco smoking, alcoholism, liver disease, and some anemias. Some medications may get in the way of the utilization of folic acid such as anticonvulsant medications, triamterene which is a diuretic, methotrexate, a drug against cancer, sulfasalazine, which is for inflammation and metformin, a drug for diabetes mellitus.

On the other hand, too much folic acid in the blood may interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 and lead to an exacerbation of the symptoms of a deficiency in vitamin B12. Treatments for malaria may also be affected by an increase in folate. However, folate has a low toxicity risk which means that it can tolerate high folate levels, up to 1mg for adults.

Folic acid is a vital substance in the body which is needed for its normal development and growth. It should be reason enough to have those vegetables before its too late.