so good about Folic Acid?
Folic acid is vitamin B9 in
water-soluble form. It is a nutrient you get naturally in your
diet, as folate, from green leafy veggies, cauliflower, beans and organ
meats. It has been known for decades that this nutrient is
important for pregnant women because it prevents birth defects.
But the big news these days is that folic acid helps reduce the risk of
strokes. Folic acid acts in your blood to reduce homocysteine
concentrations in your body.
Homocysteine. It may be an unfamiliar word, but you may already
be familiar with the harm it can cause. In a nutshell,
homocysteine is an amino acid in your blood that attacks blood vessel
walls and promotes cardiovascular disease. If your system is
short on folic acid, your body can’t break down homocysteine like it
High blood levels
of homocysteine have been clearly associated with heart disease.
In fact, people who have high blood homocysteine levels are twice as
likely to suffer from clogged arteries. A recent study at the
University of Washington found that high homocysteine levels pose a
risk for cardiovascular disease regardless of a patient’s other risk
factors like cholesterol, triglycerides, and smoking.(1)
Because it is a
risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, homocysteine has been called
the “new cholesterol.” (1) However, there is
one huge difference between homocysteine and cholesterol: you
can’t keep your homocysteine level down just by staying away from
certain foods. Unlike cholesterol, homocysteine is not found in
foods. It’s in your blood at various levels, and getting the
right amount of folic acid can keep it from being too high.
I need folic acid?
number of studies show that yes, you do. Everyone needs it.
And you get some of what you need from foods you eat. But
deficiencies of folic acid and other B-vitamins are very common.
In one study, 59 percent of middle-aged men were found to be folic acid
deficient. In other research, 30 percent of elderly men and women
studied had elevated blood homocysteine levels. In 1995 Dr. Rene
Malinow at Oregon Health Sciences University, reported that 30 to 40
percent of people with cerebrovascular and peripheral artery disease
had highs homocysteine levels. (1)
else can folic acid do for me?
In addition to
lowering your homocysteine level, folic acid also provides
some benefit in reducing the risk of high blood pressure, possibly
because it helps maintain the flexibility of arteries and helps your
body adjust its own blood pressure. (2)Folate also helps
maintain the nervous system, intestinal tract, sex organs and normal
growth patterns. It promotes healthy skin, protects against
cancer, and prevents canker sores. And here’s some emerging
research we’ll keep an eye on: High homocysteine levels may even
be associated with dementia.
we can’t leave out the folate information that is crucial to
moms-to-be. Since the 1960s it has been well documented that
folic acid is necessary for a new mother-to-be to ensure that the
neural tube closes on a developing fetus. If you are expecting a
baby, or plan to have children in the future, you should discuss this
with your doctor to make sure you have sufficient levels of folic acid
early in your pregnancy.
much folic acid do I need?
A new study from
Taiwan indicates that in test subjects who had high homocysteine when
they began the study, and in subjects who had a genetic propensity for
high homocysteine, their levels lowered when they consumed a low dose
folic acid supplement. (3)
A popular 2005
Harvard study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, found that women who got at
least 1,000 micrograms of folate a day were 25 percent less likely to
develop high blood pressure than those consuming less than 200
micrograms per day. Many other studies have looked at lower doses
and found that taking more than 800 mcg does not provide any added
U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) of folic acid has been
deliberately set at a low level because, when looking at blood cells
under a microscope, folic acid can mask some signs of a B-12
deficiency. However, since the time when the RDAs for folic acid
were set, science has progressed to better, more sensitive methods for
detecting B-12 deficiency, in which folic acid masking that problem is
no longer a factor. Still, most folic acid supplements, as
a “just-in-case” simple solution, include B-12 as well. (1)
B-Active vitamins provide 800 mcg of folic
acid, along with vitamins B-12 and B-6 in a unique hard-to-find timed
release formula. Timed release is important since your body
cannot store up B vitamins. They simply get eliminated through the
urine because most B vitamins that you find over the counter or on the
internet do not have this special quality to them.
Keeping your body healthy is something you do for yourself and for the
people who love you. We can not over-emphasize the importance of
a well-balanced diet. And as you make the effort to eat healthy
for your heart; don’t forget the importance of folic acid, and the
probable need to provide more to your body through high quality B
Jack. 1995. The B-Vitamins and Heart Disease.
Nutrition Reporter Newsletter.
(2) Weber, Craig, M.D. Can Folic
Acid Prevent High Blood Pressure? Your Guide to High Blood
PT, Leeb B-J, Changc H-H, Tsaid A-J, Huanga YC. Low-dose folic
acid supplementation reduces homocysteine concentration in
hyperhomocysteinemic coronary artery disease patients. Nutrition
Research, September 2006; 26 (9): 460-466.