Folate is an important component vital to growth and regeneration of cells in the body. It is also known as vitamin B9 and is in two forms. ‘Folate’ is the natural form of a water-soluble vitamin found in plant and animal bodies. Folic acid is the synthetic variety which is taken in the form of diet supplements. Both perform the same functions. Folate is found in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, asparagus and other veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and beet to name a few. It is high in quantity in seeds, nuts and fruits like papaya, avocado, citrus fruits and berries.
Animal and dairy products also contain folate in good amounts. But the highest proven folate content is found in lentils. Since this vitamin is water-soluble, it does not stay in the body and has to be continuously replaced by proper food intake. Poor folate content is associated with the risk of many diseases. Let take a look at the various reasons of incorporating folate in our diet-
Folate helps to regulate the nervous system of the body and aids in transferring data molecules throughout the body. Poor folate content has been associated with low cognitive functions, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Patients of depression are significantly benefitted by the intake of folate supplements. It acts as a catalyst to the antidepressants and enhances its effect on the body. Folic acid alone might not be so helpful, but when combined with depression medications is known to give positive results.
The risks of cardiovascular diseases can be potentially reduced with the regular supplementation of folic acid. Folate keeps the level of Hcy in check.Hcy or homocysteine is used as a parameter to check heart health. If the level of Hcy is in control, then the risk of cardiovascular diseases is also less.
The red blood cells oxygen from the lungs to the various parts of the body. Folic acid levels in the body should be optimum for proper red blood cell production. Low levels of folic acid lead to serious conditions like anemia.
The level of folic acid should be maintained in pregnant women. Its deficiency can lead to fetal defects, congenital heart defects, preterm birth and even miscarriages. The fetus can be at a risk of a condition called neural tube defect, which hampers the growth of the nervous system. This happens in early pregnancy and goes undiagnosed till later stages at times. So women who are planning a family should start taking supplements at least 2-3 months before conceiving and continue till late as per the doctor’s advice.
A decrease in the amount of folic acid in the body can upset the digestion process and lead to problems like diarrhea.
The loss of hair color, premature graying of hair can be largely attributed to folic acid deficiency. Folate supplements and food rich in folic acid, like leafy vegetables, should be taken if such conditions arise. Unlike the genetic graying of hair that cannot be reversed, this can help hair strands to regain their natural color again if proper supplements are taken.
Mouth ulcers and ulcers of the stomach like peptic ulcers start surfacing and keep recurring due to folate deficiency. Swollen tongue, loss of hunger and gingivitis are also some common problems arising due to folic acid deficiency.
Some studies show the correlation between folate deficiency and cancers, but further study needs to be done in this respect.
These are the building blocks in the body that determine the genes.Folate aid in the production of DNA and RDA, which are responsible for growth and division of cells.