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Folate deficiencies are very common in the USA, and elsewhere in the world. The likelihood of a deficiency increases if you are a pregnant woman or an alcohol consumer, so these people in particular need to pay more attention to this essential nutrient.
Folate is an essential compound in the formation of red blood cells and is important in energy production. It is a coenzyme in DNA and RNA synthesis, making it an essential element in proper cell division and replication.
Therefore, it is especially important to ensure the body has enough of this vitamin before and during pregnancy, as healthy fetal development depends on the presence of this nutrient. Timing is vital in this: folate ingestion should begin before pregnancy to ensure that there is a sufficient amount of this nutrient available to the growing fetus.
This vitamin is also effective in lowering high homocysteine levels. Studies show that too much homocysteine in the body can cause heart problems. Folic acid, combined with vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, can help your body to reduce homocysteine amounts.
This supplement may also help in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Although the relationship between low folate levels and depression requires further study, it is worth asking your doctor about this supplement if you are suffering from depression.
Unlike vitamin B12, the body does not store large amounts of B9. Usually body reserves are only sufficient for a couple months, and so it is very easy to experience a deficiency if there is no constant folate source for the body.
Alcohol damages folate absorption in the body and can lead to its excretion from the body altogether. If you are heavy drinker, you should seriously consider supplementing your body with this nutrient.
There is an increased demand for this substance in pregnant women as it is critical in the healthy development of the fetus. A deficiency can lead to neural tube defects such as spina bifida. If you are planning to have a baby, you should begin supplementation before pregnancy and continue into first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
A deficiency of folic acid can also increase the risk of the heart disease. It regulates homocysteine levels, and therefore decreases the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. If you suffer from high cholesterol levels, ask your doctor to check your homocysteine blood level, as high levels of this substance with the added problem of high cholesterol can multiply your risk of suffering from heart problems.
In addition, a folic acid deficiency may cause macrocytic anemia. In this condition, the red blood cells in the body become enlarged and the number of cells decreases. Since a vitamin B12 deficiency may also cause this type of anemia, it is important to supplement folate with vitamin B12.
Foods that are rich in folic acid include dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and dried beans. However, light, heat, and food processing can easily destroy it, so it is best to consume fruits and vegetables fresh or with as little cooking as possible, in order to get the maximum benefits.
The RDA dosage is around 200 mcg for adults and 400 mcg for pregnant women. Taking folate may mask any vitamin B12 deficiency and so many experts suggest supplementing this nutrient with vitamin B12.
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