Folic Acid Facts

Folic Acid Facts
Folic acid, which is also known as folate, is a B vitamin (vitamin B9, to be exact) that is essential in the human diet. Being an essential vitamin means that humans cannot make it, and need to get it in the diet. Folic acid is important in many functions in the body, mainly for making, and repairing DNA as well as acting in other biological reactions. It is also important in making new cells, and especially important to produce healthy red blood cells. Read on for more fun facts about folic acid!
Interesting Folic Acid Facts:
Folic acid is so important to human health, it is included in many types of foods, especially breakfast cereal. The process to add a vitamin to other foods is called fortification. So, a cereal that has added vitamins is called fortified.
Folic acid is named from a latin word (folium) which means leaf. This comes from the fact that leafy vegetables are very rich in folic acid.
A lack of folic acid (also called a deficiency) can cause many different things to happen (called symptoms). These can include diarrhea, weakness, shortness of breath, nerve damage, mental confusion, forgetfulness, depression, sore or swollen tongue, headaches, funny heartbeats (called palpitations), irritability, and small sores in the mouth and stomach (called ulcers).
Lack of folic acid can also cause a decrease in the amount of red blood cells in the body. This condition is called anemia. The type of anemia caused by folic acid deficiency is called a macrocytic anemia. Macrocytic means "large cells." So, lack of folic acid causes low levels of red blood cells, and the individual red blood cells are really large.
Low levels of folic acid in a mother who is pregnant can cause several different problems with the developing baby. The most serious of these can cause problems with brain and spinal cord development, and are called neural tube defects.
Since folic acid is so important for cells that are rapidly growing and dividing, many cancer drugs are focused on interfering with folic acid. These drugs have the effect of slowing or stopping growth of cancer cells, but also affect good cells, and have many side effects.
Leafy vegetables (spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, lettuce, some Asian vegetables) are great natural sources of folic acid, but there are many others - legumes (beans, peas, lentils), egg yolks, baker's yeast, sunflower seeds, liver, kidneys, and fortified grains (pasta, cereal, bread).
Some foods have more moderate amounts of folic acid = fruits such as oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapefruit, banana, raspberry, strawberries all have moderate amounts. Some vegetables also have more moderate amounts = beets, corn, tomato juice, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, and bok choy.
The most important time for a woman who wants to become pregnant (or even MIGHT become pregnant) is to take folic acid for a couple months before she becomes pregnant.
Folic acid has been researched for prevention of heart disease, stroke, depression, behavioral problems, and age-related eye problems. It has also been researched in an effort to combat cancer, anemia, and other disorders.

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