Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Folate (Folic Acid): Role in the Body & Benefits

Role in the Body
Also known as folic acid or folacin, folate is needed for energy production. It plays roles in synthesizing proteins and genetic material, building muscle, making new cells, especially red blood cells, and transmission of nerve signals.

Dietary Sources
The best sources of folic acid are liver (chicken, beef, lamb and pork), beans, green leafy vegetables, and brewer's yeast.

Who Is at Risk for Deficiency?
You may be at risk if you are elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding, you drink alcohol or smoke, you take birth control pills, or certain prescription medications for seizures, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis or urinary tract infections.

Folic acid is a B Vitamin that everyone needs for cell growth. It is especially important for women who may become pregnant.

The most well known benefit of folic acid is its ability to prevent neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly if taken in early pregnancy, preferably months prior to conception. Folic acid also breaks down homocysteine, which can prevent heart disease, and may prevent cervical and colon cancer.

There is no known toxicity of folic acid. Note it can interfere with a number of anticonvulsant drugs.

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