The Power of Folic Acid

Folic Acid is a water-soluble vitamin, AKA vitamin B9, and is found naturally in plants such as dark leafy green vegetables.  Humans cannot make folic acid therefore we must get it through our diet or with supplements.  Why do we need folate? According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, we need folate because it serves as a precursor to DNA nucleotide thymine, which we need to make new cells.  Without thymine production, uracil builds up and can cause mutations.  Translation: folate is needed to make new cells and to prevent cancer.  We also need folate because it serves as a precursor to create methyl groups which are used as an OFF (or sometimes on) switch for genes. This is important because it allows cells to adapt to their environments. Methyl groups created from folate can also convert homocysteine, which plays a role in stroke, vascular dementia, and cardiovascular disease, back into methionine.  Folate deficiency therefore increases our risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

The recommended daily intake in adults is 400 mcg of folate per day.  If you are pregnant or nursing, make sure you are getting at least 600 mcg per day.  Below is a table with common foods and their folic acid content:

folic-acid.jpg

There are a couple ways to assess your folate levels. If you are interested in knowing your folate status ask your doctor to test.  You can ask for a red blood cell folate concentration and this will give you your long term folate status.  You can also have your homocysteine levels checked as a way to asses folate levels as well.  This is a common amino acid that is used to screen for cardiovascular risk.  Lastly, we can look at your genetics to see if you have the capacity to metabolically use folate efficiently.   As a patient of mine, I walk you through the various testing options and together we choose the best option for you.

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27008500

  2. https://thecompleteherbalguide.com/entries/vitamins-minerals/folic-acid-and-what-does-it-do/

  3. Dr. Rhonda Patrick <https://www.foundmyfitness.com>