Folic acid is a vitamin B derivative whose main source is food. In many foods such as leafy green vegetables, folic acid is present as folate which later transforms to folic acid in body. Both folate and folic acid have same functioning in body. Folic acid benefits are numerous and vital especially for pregnant women. Moreover, deficiency of folic acid majorly results in brain and neural tube defects in newborns. Therefore, not only in routine basis but also in pregnancy the requirement of folic acid is crucial to meet.
The US Center of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women should take minimum dose of 400 micrograms of folic acid. The ideal timing is to start taking the supplements one month before the conception so that to avoid deficiency during pregnancy.
The ideal daily dose of folic acid is 400 micrograms. Not only its deficiency is harmful but also its overdose may pose serious health issues. Taking a high dose as much as 1000 micrograms seriously damages the nerves and brain.
These foods are major contributors of folic acid:
- Leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach
- Citrus fruits
Although these foods are good source of folic acid yet these may not give you the exact proportion or daily dose of folic acid. Therefore, another choice is to take vitamin supplements. The folic acid pills and other multivitamins usually consist of 100% daily dose for adult individual. Thus, either from diet or by taking vitamin supplements, maintain a daily recommended dose of folic acid.
Benefits of folic acid
Folic acid is effective in given conditions:
- Folic acid is vital for normal cellular functioning and growth. Taking enough of folic acid helps to maintain normal cellular functioning of skin, blood and hair cells.
- Folic acid, (vitamin B-9) supplements along with ayurvedic herbal oils is often recommended to grow thick and black hair naturally.
- Many traditional and herbal treatments approve folic acid for its benefits for hair growth and healthy body.
- A limited research is available which prove the effectiveness of taking folic acid supplements for these conditions:
- Vistiligo: A skin condition characterized by patches formed on body.
- Research reveals that taking folic acid routinely helps to prevent age-related muscular degeneration (AMD). Thus, it prevents age-related vision loss.
- Taking folic acid along with antidepressants may help to overcome depression and anxiety.
- This vitamin is effective for maintaining healthy gums.
- Pregnancy: The most vital role of this vitamin is for pregnant women. This prevents neural tube defects (NTD) in newborn baby. The defect is named as spina bifida.
What if there is deficiency of folic acid?
Considering the vital role of folic acid in body we can deduce how its deficiency will be risky for health. Folic acid deficiency may cause:
1. Spina bifida
In human body, the spinal cord is enclosed in vertebrae. If there is deficiency of Folic acid, the vertebrae do not close properly. The result is that the spinal cord protrudes or bulges out at lower back through these vertebrae. This abnormal condition is named as spina bifida.
The neural tube defects due to folic acid deficiency results in severe underdevelopment of brain. This condition is known as anencephaly. The condition is so severe that a major portion of brain fails to develop during the early embryonic stages. Most of the cases of anencephaly are stillbirths. Babies born with this condition usually die within hours or days.
3. Folate deficiency anemia
In the absence or deficiency of folic acid, the red blood cells disrupt rapidly. This results in anemia. The symptoms are:
- Pale skin
- Pigmentation of skin
- Hair thinning and hair fall
- Mouth sores
Folic acid is integral part of cellular metabolic pathways. The deficiency of folic acid is harmful for health. Moreover, during pregnancy, deficiency is fatal for newborns. Therefore, it’s wise to maintain a daily dose of 400 mcg by diet or by taking supplements.