Folic Acid is a B vitamin which is vital for the formation of red blood cells. Folic Acid, together with vitamin B12, is essential for the development of red blood cells. A lack of Folic Acid can cause “Macrocytic Anaemia.” In addition to red blood cells, the formation of folic acid is essential for DNA formation. Folic Acid is a vital vitamin that can prevent birth conditions called neural tube defects.
Sources of Folic acid include leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, salad greens, beans and legumes as well as oranges and other fruits, poultry, pork and shellfish. Folate is found in a wide variety of foods and folic acid is a water soluble vitamin. It can be destroyed due to overcooking and steaming.
Adults and children usually get sufficient amounts of folate (200 micrograms) per day, with a balanced diet. Pregnant women and lactating mothers, however, need around 400 micrograms of folate per day. Such mothers need 1mg of Folic Acid supplements per day. It is important that all expecting mothers take Folic Acid supplements as the nervous system of the foetus develops during the first three months. Spina bifida and anencephaly are neural tube defects that can occur during the development of the spine and brain. Neural tube defects occur very early during pregnancy, usually before the pregnancy is detected. They occur in every 1000 pregnancies. Many babies born with these anomalies face bowel and bladder-related problems. Some babies with major degree anomalies may even die.
Studies have shown that neural tube defects can be prevented by increasing the intake of folic acid during and before pregnancy.
Folic Acid deficiency can result in anaemia symptoms like weakness of the body, weight loss, headaches and heat palpitation.
Folic Acid reduces the blood levels of Homocysteine amino acid, which is a risk factor of developing coronary heart disease. By this folate may help reduce heart disease.
Studies show that 0.4mg per day is sufficient for a pregnant mother but high-risk mothers with a history of having children with neural tube defects or if the mother or her partner has neural tube defect, a higher dose should be taken. Diabetic or overweight mothers may need a higher dose of Folic Acid supplements.