Folic acid is one of the eight B complex vitamins. Compounds found in this category help the body utilize proteins and fats, as well as being required for a healthy liver, eyes, hair, and skin. All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that they are not stored in the body and must be ingested daily to maintain proper bodily function.
In addition to helping convert carbohydrates into usable energy in the form of glucose, a trait found among all B vitamins, folic acid promotes good health in important areas of the body while also reducing the risk of serious health conditions. However, vitamin B9 is not a soloist and needs the assistance of other B complex vitamins to provide the greatest benefit. Some positive interactions between folic acid and other B vitamins include improved blood cell production, better iron utilization, and bloodstream regulation of homocysteine (an amino acid that is possibly harmful when it reaches excessive levels). Even though B vitamins act as a big supportive family, folic acid, the synthetic form of vitamin B9 found in supplements and fortified foods, boasts some specific benefits that set it apart from others.
However, it is important to note that people with the MTHFR C677T gene mutation have a reduced ability to convert folic acid into its active form, L-methylfolate. In these cases, it may be more beneficial to supplement with folate instead of folic acid. Always consult your doctor before beginning supplementation.
Why is Folic Acid (B9) so Special?
Along with the other universal benefits of B vitamins, folic acid plays a major role in the nervous system. This B vitamin is required for proper brain function and aids in maintaining healthy emotional and mental health. Cell growth is also significantly impacted by folic acid. This vitamin assists in the production and maintenance of DNA, RNA, and blood cells. This is especially notable during adolescence and pregnancy when cell health and growth is particularly important.
Aiding Pregnancy and Early Development
Studies have shown that during and perhaps even before pregnancy, women require roughly 150% of the daily recommended amount of folic acid. This addition reduces the risk of birth defects such as cleft palate, spina bifida, brain damage, and neural tube defects. Dr. Richard Johnson, Jr., director of March of Dimes, stated that folic acid is most effective at reducing birth defect risk when women have been taking it before conception and continue through the first trimester. It is argued that this may reduce the risk of neural tube defects by 72-100%. This is important as the neural tube has a significant impact on the development of the brain and spinal cord. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, women who can become pregnant should consider using folic acid supplementation.
Reducing the Effects of Aging
Folic acid is not only useful for early development and pregnancy, but it may also prevent age-related conditions later in life. One study found that elderly individuals who had high levels of homocysteine and reduced folate levels benefited from folic acid supplementation. Patients showed a reduction in the rate of hearing loss as they age. Another study showed that patients who took 2,500 mcg of folic acid in addition to 500 mg of vitamin B6 and 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 daily showed a reduced risk of developing AMD (a condition leading to loss of vision). Having proper levels of folic acid can assist health at any stage of life.
Lowering Risk of Heart Conditions
Heart disease is a major concern in the United States and folic acid may help lower the rate of occurrence. Through regulating possibly harmful substances, such as the amino acid homocysteine, folates may reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that patients with high levels of homocysteine have an increased risk of heart disease by 1.7 times and an increased risk of stroke by 2.5 times. Although more research is required to make a definitive link between this amino acid and heart disease, regulating it via folate supplementation takes little effort.
Folic Acid Deficiency
Even if one is not interested in the preventative benefits of this vitamin, it is important to maintain proper levels. This can be challenging for some as there are several factors that reduce folic acid levels in the body. Alcoholism, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and some medications such as tetracycline (an antibiotic), methotrexate (used for treating cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis), and chemotherapy all significantly hamper folic acid levels by inhibiting absorption.
Deficiency of this B vitamin can lead to:
- Inhibited growth
- Loss of appetite leading to weight loss
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sores and inflammation in or around the mouth
Cautions and Concerns of Supplementation
Folic acid, and B vitamins in general, are not associated with any severe side effects. Because they are water-soluble any excess leftover is simply excreted through urine. However, extreme dosages may cause:
- Stomach problems
- Sleep problems
- Skin reactions
- Loss of appetite
Consult a physician if you intend to take more than 800mcg of folic acid. Those undergoing treatment for seizures or cancers should speak to their physician before taking folate supplements.
Protect your Future with Folic Acid
One of the best ways to ensure that you have adequate levels of folic acid in your diet is by taking a folate supplement. Although one usually acquires enough vitamin B9 through a balanced diet, dietary restrictions, food allergies, and food availability may impact one’s ability to ingest the requisite amount of folic acid. Mega B, produced by HoltraCeuticals, provides the needed daily amount of folic acid as well as a supporting cast of B vitamins to ensure the greatest impact. As an easy-to-digest form of B vitamins, Mega B is particularly beneficial for the elderly, vegetarians, and those who have chronic conditions as they are at greater risk of deficiency.
Even if you’re not at risk of deficiency, increasing B vitamin, or more specifically folate intake, can help prevent a slew of debilitating conditions and keep your body running at its best. Because there is relatively little danger associated with vitamin B supplementation, there are very few reasons not to utilize one. By taking a folate supplement and further, you can fight against B vitamin deficiency and help reduce the occurrence of life-altering conditions.