Folic Acid – Sources, Benefits, Functions and Deficiency Diseases

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Folic Acid:

Folic Acid is also known as “Vitamin B9″, “folacin” or “folate”. Folic acid is a form of water soluble vitamin and it is one of the B-complex vitamins essential for our body.

Folic acid is an inactive form of folate and its reduced forms like dihydrofolate and tetrahydrofolate are active forms. Folic acid gets destroyed when the food is overcooked.

Importance of Folic Acid

Liver is the largest and most imporant organ of our body carrying out several essential functions like emulsification of fats, secretion of bile salts and bile acids etc, secretion of several vitamins and clotting factors.

Liver is the primary organ for the metabolism and inactivation of the drugs.

Folic acid Dosage

For the liver to function properly, 400 micrograms of ‘folic acid’ (Vitamin B9) is reqiured for the body daily. And the requirement of this folic acid is even more at 600 micrograms per day for pregnant women which is essential in the development of foetal brain and spinal cord.

Functions of Folic Acid in our body

Folic acid plays a vital role in the formation of DNA and RNA. It is essential for the production and maintainance of new cells. Folate is also essential for the metabolism of homocysteine, and helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid. Folic acid is mainly important during infancy and pregnancy.

Recent research have proved that if Folic Acid is taken as per the required amount in daily food, it mostly prevents the attack of Alzeimers (loss of memory in old age) and heart diseases.

Sources of Folic Acid:

Liver, meat, eggs, milk, fruits, cereals and leafy vegetables.

The Chief Sources of Folic Acid and the respective quantity present in them are :

Papaya – 116 micrograms
Orange Juice (1 Cup) – 72 micrograms
Boiled Groundnuts (1 Cup) – 87.53 micrograms
Boiled Peas (1 Cup) – 56micrograms
Spinach (1 Cup) – 179micrograms
Cauliflower (1) – 54 micrograms

Folic acid is also present in ample amounts in beans, soya, corn, etc.

Deficiency Diseases of Folic Acid:

Diarrhoea, anaemia and loss of leucocytes.

The deficiency of the folic acid causes diarrhoea, anaemia and decrease in the number of leucocytes. This deficiency also affects the cell division in tissues such as intestinal mucosa.

Folate deficiency:

Folic Acid if taken in excess amounts, it leads to vitamin B12 deficiency and alters the functions of the brain. High levels of folic acid can provoke seizures in patients taking anti-convulsant medications, so they have to consult doctor befor taking folate medication.

Folic acid during Pregnancy:

Folic acid if taken during early pregnancy, helps in the proper development of brain and all other organs. Folic acid prevents the congenital malformations and several other neural tube defects. Folic acid helps in the rapid cell division and cell growth. Folic acid when taken properly during the first trimester of pregnancy prevents the birth defects in the children.

Benefits of Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

  • Folic acid is very essential for performing various body functions.
  • Folic acid is required for the synthesis of nucleic acids like DNA and RNA.
  • Folic acid is also essential to repair the DNA and to act as cofactor in many biological reactions.
  • Folic acid helps in the rapid cell division and growth of cells during infancy and during pregnancy.
  • Both adults and children require folic acid for the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
  • Folic acid helps in the prevention of anemia.

Recommended Dietary Allowances for Folate for Children and Adults

Age (years)     Males and Females(μg/day)                 Pregnancy                  Lactation

1-3                                    150                                                   N/A                         N/A

4-8                                   200                                                      N/A                      N/A

9-13                                300                                                       N/A                      N/A

14-18                              400                                                     600                        500

19+                                 400                                                     600                        500

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