Folic acid, or the so-called folacin, belongs to the water-soluble vitamins (namely B9) and is one of the most important ones for the good health of our body.
Folic acid reduces the risk of congenital disabilities of the baby up to 70%, helping for the proper development of the spine and the brain; it is also involved in the formation of DNA and RNA, thanks to which it activates the cell growth.
Vitamin V9 takes an active part in the metabolism processes. Also, folic acid contributes to the normal formation of the red blood cells, preventing the body from developing anemia and has beneficial effects on the nervous system, reducing the level of the stress hormones.
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What Is Folic Acid
Folic acid, or the so-called folacin, belongs to the water-soluble vitamins (namely B9) and is one of the most important ones for the good health of our body. It is a yellow-orange crystalline powder and has the molecular formula C19H19N7O6.
Folacin is a coenzyme required by the body to gain muscle mass and to form hemoglobin, as it takes an active part in the synthesis of the amino acid serine, the tyrosine metabolism, the vitamins C and B12.
Why Is Folic Acid So Important
Folic acid reduces the risk of congenital disabilities of the baby up to 70%, helping for the proper development of the spine and the brain. It is also involved in the formation of DNA and RNA, thanks to which it activates the cell growth.
Vitamin V9 takes an active part in the metabolism processes – it changes the amino acid cysteine into methionine, thereby reducing the levels of the first amino acid in the blood, which is particularly important for the good condition of the placenta and thus promptly reduces the risk of premature birth.
Also, folic acid contributes to the normal formation of the red blood cells, preventing the body from developing anemia and has beneficial effects on the nervous system, reducing the level of the stress hormones. This vitamin plays a key role in the absorption of the other vitamins from the B group, providing energy for the body and helping it to fight off fatigue easily.
Folic Acid Is a Vitamin That the Body Cannot Produce by Itself, Nor Store for a Long Time
This means that the body has to get a daily intake of vitamin V9 through food or additional supplements on the advice of a specialist.
The human body is designed so that it cannot produce folic acid, nor can it store stocks of it for a long period, and the natural folic acid administered through food is unstable and loses its activity during heat treatment or placed in a room-temperature environment.
When entering the body, folic acid gets into the liver, plasma, and erythrocytes, and there is connects with iron and promotes the formation of hemoglobin. The liver depot for vitamin B9 manages to cover the needs of the body for three months, provided that the intake of the acid has been completely stopped.
The Best Sources of Vitamin B9
All leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, parsley, spinach), asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, tomatoes, turnips, barley sprouts, lentils, rice, wheat germ, oatmeal, chickpeas; liver, lamb and beef, soft cheeses, eggs, and also bread.
The fruits with the highest content of folic acid are avocado, papaya, oranges, and strawberries. In some countries, folic acid is used as a food additive for the preparation of pasta (noodles, macaroni, spaghetti, etc).
What Is the Recommended Dose
According to the American National Health Service, the recommended daily dose of vitamin B9 is 100 mcg, and for pregnant women, the dose is 400 mcg.
Studies show that women, who have been taking folic acid a month before the conceiving and then during the first trimester of the pregnancy, decrease the risk of congenital deformities of their baby to 70%.
Having in mind that about 50% of the pregnancies are not planned, experts recommend the regular intake of folic acid to all women of childbearing age. It should be noted that folic acid is the sole nutrient that needs to be doubled by pregnant women.
Furthermore, there is no risk of overdose if a woman consumes enough food rich in vitamin B9 and takes synthetic folic acid along with it. Even in relatively high doses folic acid remains non-toxic and does not cause allergic reactions of the body.
What Does the Shortage of Folic Acid Lead To
It is known that folates are a large number of compounds with similar biological activity involved in some enzymes that are actively involved in the synthesis of a large number of amino acids and nucleotides.
This, in turn, means that they play a key role in the synthesis of DNA and RNA that determine the cell division. A deficiency of these compounds causes disturbances in the processes of the cell-division, manifested most strongly in the regenerating tissue.
Deficiency of vitamin B9, together with B12 deficiency, leads to disturbances in the process of formation of the myelin sheaths of the peripheral nerves, and also degenerative changes in the spinal cord. On the other hand, there is an abnormality in the formation of red blood cells and subsequent anemia, especially in people with a poor diet.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are actively involved in the metabolism of the amino acid methionine, and their deficiency results in the accumulation of a product called homocysteine, which induces atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels, wherein the highly increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Studies suggest that the deficiency of folic acid significantly increases the risk of cancer, which is associated with ineffective DNA synthesis and mutations in the cellular structure.
But there is no doubt that folic acid deficiency is the most dangerous in the first two months of the pregnancy of the woman. There is a real risk of birth to a child with significant defects, and they may be born prematurely and with delays in their mental development.
What Do We Know About the Neural Tube Defects and Spina Bifida
Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy leads to neural tube defects and the so-called Spina bifida. It is known that between the 20th and the 30th day after conception the neural tube of the embryo is formed, and then it closes.
From this tube, the spine, brain, spinal cord, and skull of the baby are later formed. The neural tube defect occurs when it is not properly closed and leaves the forming brain in direct contact with the amniotic fluid.
Spina bifida is a congenital disability that occurs during the first four weeks of the pregnancy, often before the woman herself finds out that she is pregnant. When the bone canal, where the brain and spinal cord are, has developed improperly, then we are talking about Spina bifida.
The affected vertebrae have a defect from the outer part, so the bone ring does not close completely. Sometimes the affected vertebra may be only one or several, most commonly seen in the lower back area.
The extent of the deformation determines the various forms of the disease, the lightest form if which is characterized by an incomplete closure only of the bone canal, which is covered with tissue and skin. In the more severe forms, there is a total or partial lack of the brain and skull, accumulation of a large amount of fluid in the brain, etc.
95% of Cases, In Which Children Are Born with Malformations, Aren't Genetically Predestined
Studies show that these women have not had such a case in the family, but have been exposed to some other risk factors:
- high temperature during an early stage of the pregnancy;
- certain medications for seizures;
- medically diagnosed obesity;
- suffering from insulin-dependent diabetes;
- low social-economic status.
Studies have shown that neural tube defects are more common in Caucasian women than in the Negroid race. Also, with women that gave birth to a child with a neural tube defect, there are a 20 times greater risk of having another child with such a defect.
- The folic acid is a nontoxic dietary supplement that fights the physical fatigue.
- It is one of the most important nutrients required for the proper growth and development of the baby.
- Any woman of childbearing age needs a daily intake of folic acid, even if not planning to become pregnant because the sufficient amount of vitamin V9 in the female body significantly reduces the risk of damage to the brain and spinal cord of the future baby.
- Vitamin B9 is particularly necessary for the formation of healthy and vital blood cells.