Vitamins and why we need them
Folic Acid (folate) RDA 200ug.
Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin found in certain foods (see the list below) whereas folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin, used in supplements and fortified foods.
Folic acid or folate deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies.
Many of the symptoms are similar to those of B12 deficiency. Folic acid also has a relationship with other vitamins including vitamin B5, C and E, and is also an essentially required nutrient. It is needed for making the genetic material of cells (DNA) and thus for growth and development. Folic acid is particularly important for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system and in the formation of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.
Methylfolate is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables and is the form that can be used directly by the body. This is different in structure to the synthetic form of folic acid, which is commonly sold as a supplement, and also added to fortified foods.
When the metabolism is working correctly this synthetic form of folic acid is converted to methylfolate within the body. If this process is inefficient, which can occur with certain individuals, the unmetabolised folic acid remains in the body and has no usefulness.
Folic acid (along with vitamin B12) is known to increase histamine levels in the body.
Methylfolate however, is involved in the degradation of excess histamine because methylfolate aids methylation, and under-methylation can lead to histadelia, a high level of histamine in body tissues. Methylfolate rather than folic acid supplements may be more beneficial in these circumstances.
Folic acid also decreases blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and strokes. Methyl-THFA is required as the methyl donor in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, and this reaction utilises vitamin B12 as a cofactor and also requires vitamin B6.
Vitamin B12 deficiency impairs the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, and folic acid is trapped as methyl-THFA and is useless to the body. A deficiency of either vitamin B12 or folic acid will result in identical symptoms. Therefore inadequate formulation of THFA leads to failure of methionine synthesis. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are both involved in synthesising DNA.
There is a recommendation that folic acid should be taken by women who are trying to conceive. Folic acid should also be taken during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is essential for the development of the baby's spinal cord and nervous system and to help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects such as spina bifida, cleft palate or cleft lip.
Please note that supplementing high amounts of folic acid without B12 can mask a B12 deficiency.Symptoms associated with folic acid or folate deficiency
Anaemia - cracks in the corners of the mouth - red, sore tongue - greying hair - greyish brown skin pigmentation - irritability - depression - fatigue - forgetfulness - lack of concentration - mental confusion - psychosis - insomnia - anxiety - dizziness - depressed reflexes - headaches - muscle weakness - numbness in legs - difficulty in walking - cramps - digestive problems - constipation - diarrhoea - sexual and circulation problems - hypoglycaemia - birth defects - gout - cardiovascular disease - diabetes - poor appetite.Excess folic acid
Studies suggest that higher doses of folic acid may be damaging to health when not properly metabolised.Best food sources
Brewer's yeast - wheat germ - nuts - leafy green vegetables - liver - kidney - eggs.