Folic Acid Sources and Functions

Folic Acid Sources and Functions

All of the B vitamins work together to keep you healthy and feeling good. Here is a summary of the role of folate, a water-soluble vitamin, in your good health.

What it does Functions as part of a coenzyme important in new cell formation; Helps breakdown homocysteine
Daily needs [Infants*: 65-80 µg] [Children†: 150-400 µg]
[Men: 400 µg][Women: 400 µg]
[Pregnant: 600 µg] [Lactating: 500 µg]]
Not enough Anemia, Fatigue, Malaise, Headache, Shortness of breath
Too Much May mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency
Foods Leafy green vegetables, Liver, Fortified grain products,Legumes, Seeds, Citrus fruits

*The lower value is for infants up to 6 mos.,higher value is for infants up to a year old.
† The first value is for children 1-3 with the amount increasing until age 18.

Note that the recommendation for daily intake of folate is given in micrograms (µg). A microgram is .0001 milligrams (mg), so it is a very small amount.

Destroyed by Heat and Oxygen

Folate is destroyed by heat and oxygen, so cooking methods, such as steaming should be used whenever possible and food should be stored in airtight containers. The folate coenzyme is activated by Vitamin B12, and in the process of being activated, it in turn activates Vitamin B12.

Folate by any other name

“Folate” is the naturally occurring form of this vitamin found in food and in the body. “Folic acid” generally refers to the form of this vitamin found in supplements. However, folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably.

Important for all ages

Folate has been in the news a lot because current research suggests that it may have a role in preventing certain types of cancer.

In addition, due to its ability to breakdown the amino acid, homocysteine, which when it builds up in your blood is correlated with an increased risk of clotting and deterioration of artery walls, folate is believed to be a factor in preventing heart disease.

Folate has also been found to be important in preventing birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, so it is very important that pregnant women and women who are planning to get pregnant get enough folate. 

Since these birth defects occur early in the development of the baby, and may occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant, including folic acid sources in your diet is important for all women for whom pregnancy is a possibility.

Drug Interaction

Folate is very susceptible to interaction with drugs. Aspirin and antacids particularly inhibit your body’s ability to use folate. Occasional use of these drugs should not be a problem, but regular use could result in a folate deficiency.

Cancer drugs can also interfere with the body’s use of folate. If you are undergoing cancer treatment, this is something you may want to discuss with your doctor or dietician. When treating cancer, it is a balancing act between destroying the body’s ability to make new good cells and it’s ability to make new cancer cells.

Folate in your diet is important for feeling good and being healthy, but it is not, in itself, a remedy for what ails you. Keep in mind that it can be toxic when taken as a supplement in large doses. Eating a balanced diet of fresh whole foods is still the best way to maintain good health, and will insure that you get enough of this important B vitamin. If you choose to take a supplement, make sure that the amount of folic acid is the range recommended above.

Caveat for Folic Acid Sources and Functions: Alcoholics are at particular risk for folate deficiency, causing damage to the digestive tract, which will further inhibit the ability of the body to get enough folate, as well as other nutrients.

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