What Are The Benefits Of Folic Acid? Is It Safe?
The Human Body is a complex machine, and in order to function properly, it needs proper care and ingredients. One of the things that it needs is vitamins. They are chemical which when combined with our body enhances our body functions. There are many vitamins and each of them has its own role in the functioning of the body. One such Vitamin is B9 also known as Folate, and its synthetic form, Folic Acid, these are very important for our body to work properly, especially in pregnant women. But, what are the benefits of Folic acid? Why is it even important? In this blog, we will try to answer most of your questions.
What Is Folic Acid?
Before knowing the benefits of Folic Acid, we must know what Folic Acid is. It is the synthetic form of the naturally occurring vitamin B9, also known as Folate. You can find Folate in many vegetables and fruits, while folic acid is present in supplements and other processed food.
The main function of this Vitamin is to make new DNA and help your cells divide to make new ones. This is the reason why Folic Acid is considered important for pregnant women. Folic Acid fulfils the deficiency of Folate which helps in promoting healthy neural tube development.
Benefits Of Folic Acid
The major benefits of Folic acid are that upon entering the body, it flows through our bloodstream and ends up in the liver and other tissue. Here it gets converted into 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF. This treats and prevents certain conditions that are caused due to the deficiency of Folate. Some benefits of Folic Acid are:
Prevents Neural Tube Defects In Pregnant Women
Many experts and doctors recommend pregnant women take the necessary amount of folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the unborn and this is one of the most useful benefits of Folic acid. Neural tube defects mainly affect an infant’s brain, spine and spinal cord. These diseases are called anencephaly (brain disease) and bifida (underdeveloped spine). Folic acid-rich foods like eggs are often referred to as the best foods for brain health.
Experts recommend that taking 400mg of folic acid a day can prevent these problems in infants. For this reason, the American government started fortifying foods with folic acid so that every woman gets their recommended daily amount of Folic Acid. Due to this, the neural tube defects in America were reduced by 28%.
Prevents Folate Deficiency Symptoms
Another one of the benefits of folic acid is that it prevents symptoms that are caused due to the deficiency of Folate. Although a folate deficiency is not a common occurrence, sometimes it does occur and cause Megaloblastic anaemia is an anaemia where our bone marrow starts producing new and bigger red blood cells. Taking folic acid can reduce your symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and mouth sores.
People who have a problem with their kidneys can develop these symptoms, however, taking folic acid can relieve you of all of this.
Slows Down Macular Degeneration
Other benefits of Folic Acid include slowing down age-related Macular Degeneration. Macular Degeneration refers to an eye condition in which the Macula starts degenerating and the vision gets blurred. This usually happens due to age. Taking a high dosage of folic acid can help prevent its symptoms.
Scientists have found that taking Folic Acid and vitamin B12 can have a massive impact on the condition. It helps regulate Homocysteine levels and Hyperhomocysteinemia. A study including 2512 subjects found out that combining folic acid and vitamin B12 can help reduce the progression of macular degeneration. Out of the 2512 participants, only 405 advanced to the late stages of macular degeneration. However, the thing to consider here is that this study was conducted on people who already had food fortified with folic acid, so the exact amount of folic acid consumed by the participants can be different from the documented amount.
Reduces The Risks Of Heart Strokes
One of the reasons for stroke or heart attacks is the elevated level of Homocysteine and as we mentioned above, one of the benefits of folic acid is that it helps regulate Homocysteine. A study conducted on 65,000 people suggested that people who took Folic acid had a 15% less chance of suffering a heart attack, especially when their food is not fortified with folic acid.
Researchers also found that in this case, people who had folic acid fortified in their food showed little to no improvement from the treatment. Moreover, a Chinese study showed that people who consumed their daily required Folic acid along with their heart medications saw a 21% decline in heart attacks and strokes.
What Are Some Good Sources Of Folic Acid?
As we mentioned in the beginning, folic acid is the synthetic replacement for folate or B9, it is not found naturally in any food, but can be found in fortified food like bread flour and other things. So make sure you take foods that are enriched with Folic acid to fulfil your daily requirements and reap the benefits of Folic acid. Or you can directly take Folate from natural sources like:
- Cooked lentils
- Cooked Asparagus
- Cooked Kidney Beans
- Cooked Broccoli
- Cooked Brussels
Side Effects Of Folic Acid
Just like the benefits of Folic Acid, it can show some side effects too, when exceeding the daily amount recommended. Some of its side effects are as follows:
1- Upset Stomach
5- Skin Rashes
Folic acid is a good supplement and there are many benefits of Folic acid when consumed within the daily limit. It can help reduce the progression of macular degeneration, improve heart health, and much more. Before taking any medicine for folic acid, make sure you talk to your doctor before starting the medication.