Folic Acid Help For Your Heart And BeyondFolic Acid Help For Your Heart And Beyond

Knowing a few important facts about folic acid could help keep you from developing heart disease, depression and dementia and even keep your unborn baby from developing birth defects. Yes, there are many critical benefits of folic acid.

First of all, before we go into the folic acid facts, let's find out what folic acid is. Folic acid is one of your B vitamins - Vitamin B9 to be exact. Folic Acid is a water soluble vitamin as opposed to a fat soluble vitamin. That means that folic acid is not stored by your body.

Folic acid is oftentimes used interchangeably with the word folate (remember this when looking at some of the studies below). Folate is the form of this vitamin found in foods such as leafy green vegetables. Folate is also found in citrus fruits and legumes such as beans.

Folic Acid is the more stable form of Vitamin B9 than is folate. Folic acid is not found naturally in foods and is the form of the vitamin found in supplements. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated the enrichment of grain products such as bread, pasta, rice and breakfast cereal with folic acid to help reduce birth defects.

Folic Acid Facts and Cardiovascular Disease: The Benefits of Folic Acid in Guarding Against This Number One Killer

Some of the folic acid facts surrounding cardiovascular diseases may surprise you. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines cardiovascular diseases as including heart disease, stroke and diseases of the blood vessels in your extremities.

The CDC reports that heart disease and stroke account for the number one and number three cause of death in America. The CDC estimates that every year, 950,000 Americans die of cardiovascular disease. They also estimate that as many as 61 million (or one quarter) of all Americans have some sort of cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of early, permanent disability among adults of working age. Stroke alone is responsible for the disability of over 1 million Americans.

So, tell me some folic acid facts that will help me reduce my chances of cardiovascular disease

Much research has shown that the benefits of folic acid along with Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) can significantly reduce your body's level of homocysteine.

Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by your body, usually as a result of your eating meat. Normally homocysteine is converted to methionine which is required by your body for the building of proteins and other vital chemical processes. However, your body needs the benefits of folic acid along with Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 to accomplish this.

One of your important folic acid facts is that without an adequate supply of folic acid, homocysteine levels build up in your body. And this is when the problems begin to occur. Elevated homocysteine levels have been directly linked to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease.

It seems that higher levels of homocysteine in our bodies is responsible for an increase in the narrowing and hardening of our arteries. This of course results in a decrease in and perhaps eventually the lack of blood flow, and therefore oxygen to our vital organs. Lack of blood flow to parts of your heart result in heart attack and lack of blood flow to parts of your brain result in strokes.

A study appearing in the ARCHIVES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE titled "Hyperhomocysteinemia and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease" tells us that "hyperhomocysteinemia has recently been identified as an important risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease." Further "treatment is most conveniently administered as a folic acid supplement (400-1000 ?g) and a high-potency multivitamin that contains at least 400 ?g of folate."

Another study appearing in the same journal titled "Homocysteine and Ischemic Heart Disease" states that "the epidemiological, genetic, and animal evidence together indicate that the association between serum homocysteine level and IHD (ischemic heart disease) is likely to be causal. A general increase in consumption of the vitamin folic acid (which reduces serum homocysteine levels) would, therefore, be expected to reduce mortality from IHD." Ischemic means "a decrease in the blood supply to a bodily organ, tissue, or part caused by constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels."

From the American Heart Association's website called CIRCULATION, we read "users of multivitamin supplements in observational studies have lower homocysteine levels than nonusers, as well as higher concentrations of plasma folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12." It goes on further to state "users of multivitamins have been reported to have a reduced prevalence of CAD (coronary artery disease) compared with nonusers."

Folic Acid Facts and Dementia / Depression: The Benefits of Folic Acid in Keeping Your Brain Young

Another of our folic acid facts speaks to the relationship between low intakes of folic acid and dementia in our later years. The HOUGHTON MIFFLIN Medical Dictionary defines dementia as "deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain, and often accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes."

One of the benefits of folic acid is that it is believed to be a factor in reducing the incidence of dementia or cognitive decline as we get older. Why is this? Again we go back to one of the folic acid facts above and look at that word homocysteine.

Researchers have determined what they feel are causal (causing) links between elevated homocysteine levels and brain dysfunction in our golden years. As we learned earlier on this page, one of the benefits of folic acid is that it has been shown to significantly reduce our levels of homocysteine (remember one of our folic acid facts above and how folic acid is required to turn homocysteine into methionine - methionine is required for the building of proteins).

A study appearing in the NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE titled "Folate, vitamin B12, and neuropsychiatric disorders" states that "folate and vitamin B12 are required both in the methylation of homocysteine to methionine and in the synthesis of S-adenosylmethionine." It further tells us that "both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency may cause similar neurologic and psychiatric disturbances including depression, dementia, and a demyelinating myelopathy" and also "the neurotoxic effects of homocysteine may also play a role in the neurologic and psychiatric disturbances that are associated with folate and vitamin B12 deficiency."

Another study appearing in the JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY, NEUROSURGERY AND PSYCHIATRY titled "Homocysteine, folate, methylation, and monoamine metabolism in depression" tells us that "although folate deficiency is often the result of depression due to poor diet, there is evidence from controlled studies that whether the deficiency is secondary or primary, folate replacement will enhance recovery of the mental state, probably by a mechanism linking methylation in the nervous system to mood."

Folic Acid Facts and Birth Defects: The Benefits of Folic Acid in Protecting Your Unborn Child

One of the folic acid facts that is well known to the medical community is that folic acid significantly reduces birth defects. Neural tube defects (NTD) to be more specific. The neural tube is that part of the unborn child that develops into the brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is designed to close after about the 30th day after conception.

If the neural tube fails to close properly, neural tube defects result. Neural tube defects result in birth defects such as spina bifida, encephalocele and anencephaly.

And one of the major benefits of folic acid is that it is known to prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects as well as some other types birth defects. Why is this so? Well, shortly after conception, cell division is very critical to the healthy development and growth of the unborn child. One of the folic acid facts is that folic acid is extremely important to DNA and RNA synthesis. Without adequate benefits of folic acid, abnormalities can occur.

Studies have shown that women who take folic acid supplements (in addition to a well balanced diet) both before and during pregnancy have a 60 - 100 % reduced chance of a baby born with NTD. As a matter of fact, U.S. Public Health Service suggests that all women of childbearing age, get at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Some researchers suggest 600 mcg.

The American government felt so strongly about the benefits of folic acid that in 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated the enrichment of grain products such as bread, pasta, rice and breakfast cereal with folic acid to help reduce birth defects.

The CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION in an article titled "Folic Acid Helps Prevent Some Birth Defects" has this to say: "Folic acid is a B vitamin. It is used in our bodies to make new cells. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before she is pregnant, it can help prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain and spine. These birth defects are called neural tube defects or NTDs. Women need to take folic acid every day starting before they are pregnant to help prevent NTDs."

The CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION also tells us that "one easy way a woman can be sure she is getting enough folic acid is to take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day. Folic acid pills and most multivitamins sold in the U.S. have 100% of the daily value (DV) of folic acid."

Folic Acid Facts and Cancer: Though Not Yet Conclusive, The Benefits of Folic Acid Are Beginning to Become Known

We won't spend much time here on the benefits of folic acid and cancer because it seems that the jury is still out on this one. However, some researchers seem to feel that another of the benefits of folic acid is protection against some form of cancers. We know that one of our folic acid facts is that it protects our DNA and guards against mutations. This is this mechanism that leads some researchers to feel further studies should be done in this area.

A study appearing in the JOURNAL OF NUTRITION titled "Folate and Carcinogenesis: An Integrated Scheme" has this to say: "Folate deficiency induces breaks in chromosomes and such breaks are associated with an increased risk of cancer in humans." The study goes on to say that "folate depletion appears to enhance carcinogenesis whereas folate supplementation above what is presently considered to be the basal requirement appears to convey a protective effect."

Folic Acid Facts: How Much is Enough? - How Much is Too Much?

No harmful effects have been associated with large doses of folic acid. However, large doses of folic acid could possibly mask an undiagnosed Vitamin B12 deficiency. An undiagnosed Vitamin B12 deficiency could possibly lead to neurologic damage especially in older adults. The level of folic acid intake which could mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency is thought to occur at around 5000 mcg.

For this reason the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine suggests that adults limit their folic acid intake to 1000 mcg. Actually, a good adult multivitamin will contain the RDA of 400 mcg. And remembering our folic acid facts above, it is suggested that women of childbearing age might want to increase that to 600 mcg.

by R Edward Jones
References and Bibliography

You can learn much more about Folic Acid facts by visiting Copyright R. Edward Jones

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