Folate

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is an essential B-Complex vitamin that is commonly known by its supplemental form 'folic acid'.  Folate is found in most plant-based foods at low levels, but can be consumed at higher levels in fortified grains

Prenatal Care

Folic acid is well known for its use before and during pregnancy.  Women who are pregnant or planning to have children take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. This supplementation is critical in preventing a disorder known as 'neural tube defects.'   The neural tube is the structure that goes on to form the brain and the spinal cord during pregnancy.  Defects can occur when a mother does not have enough folate before and throughout her pregnancy.  The combination of supplementation and food fortification has gone a long way to helping prevent neural tube defects.

Heart Health, Brain Health, & Musculoskeletal Health

Low levels of folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, betaine (which is derived from Choline), Riboflavin, and Magnesium have all been linked to elevevated homocystein levels in the blood.  Homocystein is an amino acid that is known to cause damage to the inner walls of arteries, which can contribute to a variety of cardiovascular and neurological diseases.  People with elevated homocystein levels frequently suffer from decreased bone mineral density, and increased bone fragility.  The link between elevated homocystein and increased bone fragility is not yet known, but one theory suggests that it may be caused by reduced blood flow to the bones.  Other factors that can increase homocystein levels include eating or drinking red meat or dairy products, smoking, drinking coffee or alcohol, obesity, and the normal aging process.

Methylation

Folate also plays a key role in methylation in the body.  Folic acid and natural folate are both converted into a chemical known as 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF or L-methylfolate) which supports and creats S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAMe), essentially this is the amino-acid Methionine bonded to ATP.  SAMe is what's called a "methyl donor," and has been studied extensively for its use in depression, liver disease and osteoarthritis.  SAMe is sold as a supplement by many companies, but the majority of the research done on this chemical was through injection.  Little is known about whether supplemental SAMe has any positive effects.

A Word of Caution

The other side of folic acid is that, unlike other B-vitamins, it seems to have a potential side-effect when taken in high doses. Very large doses of folic acid (as in several thousand times the RDA) does not appear to have immediate negative effects, but prolonged exposure to levels only two and a half times the RDA may be connected to a relative increase in the cancer rates, most notably colon cancer among seniors.  A key message when it comes to nutrition is, "all things in moderation."  Stick to this mantra, and you'll start to see health improvements.  With B vitamins, however, that tends to get thrown out the window.  Most B vitamins have little or no negative side at high doses, and excess is easily filtered from your body.  Folic acid is a major exception, and you must always remember that moderation is key.

Folate Tips

Worried about the risks of folic acid?  You can take smaller doses while maximizing your body’s absorption of folic acid in several easy ways: Try taking it on an empty stomach, take it with Vitamin B12, take it with Vitamin C, and cut back on your alcohol intake.

Did you know that folate, B12 and Iron all work hand in hand? Overdoing any one of these supplements can mask deficiencies in the other two.  When supplementing your diet with one, it is important to address the other two as well.  It’s like balancing a see-saw that has three seats.  Remember to tell your doctor if you are taking supplements, because it will give them a clearer picture of your overall health. 

Here Are Some Products That Contain Folate

 

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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