What is Folic Acid and why is It Important?

What is folic acid? You sure must have heard about this vitamin dozens of times, but what is it and what does it really do to the body?

Well, first off, folic acid or folate (the anionic form) is one of the most essential of all the vitamins. It is, in essence, a B vitamin. It is also known as Vitamin B9 which is water-soluble and occurs naturally in food. It is an essential nutrient primarily because it is needed for the production and the maintenance of new cells in your body.

Folic Acid Facts

As mentioned, folic acid is necessary for growth of new cells in your body. This becomes increasingly important during periods where there is rapid cell growth and division such as during pregnancy for women and infancy in children. Folate is also needed for the replication of the DNA in your body and in maintaining normal levels of red blood cells in your bone marrow.

Foods High in Folic Acid

Both children and adults need folic acid to maintain healthy bodily functions. Thus, a regular supply is needed daily. Luckily, folate is abundant in many foods such as green, leafy vegetables, fruits and liver. For more information on foods rich in folate, please refer to the article we have prepared on folic acid sources.

Folic Acid Benefits: The Many Uses of Folic Acid

The health benefits of folic acid stems from its physiological importance in our bodies, as mentioned previously. Here are some of the benefits of folic acid:

Folic acid and pregnancy. If you are pregnant, taking folic acid for pregnant women (and even before) is very important. Folate helps prevent congenital malformations and birth defects in the brain and the spinal cord of your developing baby. Eating foods rich in folic acid is highly encouraged. Doctors also usually prescribe intake of folic acid supplements because of this increased need.

Folic acid and heart attack. Various researches have suggested that increased levels of homocysteine in your blood provide a relevant risk factor for stroke and other heart diseases. Incidentally, adequate levels of folic acid as well as the other B vitamins B12 and B6, are reported to decrease the level of homocysteine circulating around your body. As such, folic acid has been suggested to effective in reducing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

Folic acid and hair loss. If you are experiencing hair loss, it may be likely due to insufficient amounts of B vitamins in your body, primarily because the vitamins B3, B6, B12 and folic acid are all important for hair growth. Thus, intake of folic acid can counter excessive hair loss.

Other Benefits. Folic acid has also been seen to help counter symptoms of depression (and post-partum depression) and schizophrenia. It is also used widely for preventing anemia, some forms of cancer, and skin ulcers.

The importance of folic acid, along with the other B vitamins, cannot be stressed further. Thus, intake of folic acid supplements is strongly recommended, most especially if you are at risk of folic acid deficiency.

Expert Advice

If you are looking into folic acid supplements, be wary of those that are synthetic types (they usually come cheap), as they are obviously not derived from natural sources. Xtend-Life's Total Balance is one product that we highly recommend as they contain folic acid as well as vitamins, minerals and herbs that have been synergistically combined to enhance the folic acid functions in our bodies. It is by far the best folic acid supplement that brings about the best health benefits for you.

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