Folic Acid Benefits: Vitamin B9

Folic acid, otherwise more commonly known as Vitamin B9, and less commonly as folate or Folacin, is a water soluble vitamin essential to the body for forming new healthy cells. The folic acid benefits are numerous and should definitely be a staple in everyone’s diet for reasons discussed below.

The body’s daily requirement for folic acid can actually be obtained mostly from foods such as liver, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, beet roots, whole wheat products, yeast, dried beans, and oranges. Sufficient amounts can be obtained from these foods to stave off folic acid deficiency and any problems related to such.

If you’re looking for specific numbers you should aim for:

150 mcg for kids between 1 and 3 years old

200 mcg for kids between 4 to 8 years old

300 mcg for kigs between9 to 13 years old

400 mcg for teens and adults

600 mcg for pregnant women and those nursering children should also aim for 500 IU (post on folic acid pregnancy)

folic acid benefits

Some of the important folic acid benefits in image form

As you can see from the above recommended numbers folic acid is vital in pregnancy to maintain an optimum level of health for both the mother and the baby and is a crucial factor in preventing birth defects such as spina bifida. It is essential in the normal development of the baby’s spine, brain and skull. It also plays a role in preventing heart defects and lowers the risk of stillbirth and premature delivery. Folic acid should be taken prior to becoming pregnant and is particularly critical within the first 4 weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately pregnancy is not always planned and by the time a woman knows she is pregnant is usually some time into the first trimester and is too late to avoid deficiency related defects. Thus folic acid has become an additive in foods such as cereals and wheat in Canada and the United States.

Folic acid is a requirement for both children and adults in the production of healthy red blood cells to prevent anemia, particularly during times of rapid cell growth and division. It is necessary in the production and maintenance of new cells, DNA and RNA synthesis and preventing changes to DNA. It is therefore a critical component in preventing cancers.

Other folic acid benefits are in prevention of:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease—studies have shown people with this disease have lower levels of folic acid in their blood.
  • Parkinson’s Disease—people who develop this disease also have lower levels of folic acid in their blood.
  • Heart attacks and strokes—folic acid is responsible for the decrease in levels of homocysteine which is elevated in persons with coronary heart disease.
  • Cancers—ongoing research is being done to understand the benefits of folic acid in the fight against cancer of the colon and breast cancer.
  • Anemia—essential in forming new healthy red and white blood cells.

Some studies have shown that folic acid is more effectively absorbed into the system when taken in supplement form. It is suggested women thinking of getting pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily until pregnant and then increase to 600-1,000 mcg daily. Normal adult requirements from 14 years of age on recommend 400 mcg daily.

A good balance of healthy folic acid rich foods and possibly supplements are your best choices to meet the requirements needed to take advance of all folic acid benefits for a healthy diet.

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