encyclopedia

Folic Acid

Natural Sources:     

Dried beans; spinach; collard greens; citrus fruits and other foods.     

Forms:     

Standardized folic acid supplements including multi-vitamin and mineral products, capsules and tablets; Green foods and supplements.     

Therapeutic Uses:     

– Aging Disorders
– Alzheimer's Disease
– Brain Functioning
– Cellular Regeneration
– Depression
– Heart Health Maintenance
– High Homocysteine
– Memory
– Mental Functioning
– Mood Disorders
– Pregnancy-related Disorders
– Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
– Vascular Disorders
– Folic Acid Deficiency (400-5,000 mcg/day)     

Overview:     

Folic acid is a fragile, water-soluble compound, particularly important for fighting aging, mental deterioration, heart disease and cancer. Folic acid, otherwise known as pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, or vitamin Bc, is involved in the formation of new cells and therefore essential for the normal growth and development of the fetus. Folic acid has been found to reduce neural tube defects (spina bifida) in newborns and is extremely important prior to becoming pregnant. Folic acid is necessary for the development of the neural tube in the embryo. A lack of folic acid is a major cause of spina bifida in newborn babies, and the reason the FDA now requires fortification of bread and cereals with folic acid. There is also strong evidence that high folic acid (folate) levels delay the development of Alzheimer's Disease. A good source of folate is dark greens, especially spinach. Multivitamin capsules contain the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 400 micrograms. Benign doses of B vitamins, especially folic acid, also rapidly whisk away high homocysteine levels. According to research done at Tufts University, people who get less than 350 micrograms of folic acid daily are apt to have high homocysteine levels (high blood homocysteine triples your chances of heart disease and doubles your risk of having blocked and narrowed arteries). One study found that elderly people with low folic acid intake (200 micrograms daily) were six times more likely to have dangerously high homocysteine than those getting more folic acid (400 micrograms daily).  Studies also show that smokers require three times more folic acid to achieve the same blood levels as nonsmokers do. Folic acid is also particularly potent for fending off cancer development. Many studies show that individuals who lack folic acid are more susceptible to cervical, lung, esophageal and breast cancer and polyps that precede colon cancer.     

Chemistry:     

Folic acid and other folates are a group of heterocyclic compounds based on the 4-[(pteridin-6-ylmethyl)amino]benzoic acid skeleton conjugated with one or more L-glutamate units. Folate and folic acid are the preferred synonyms for pteroylglutamate and pteroylglutamic acid, respectively. The term folates may also be used in the generic sense to designate any members of the family of pteroylglutamates, or mixtures of them, having various levels of reduction of the pteridine ring, one-carbon substitutions and numbers of glutamate residues. The coenzyme forms are actually the reduced products of folic acid. The main function of 5,6,7,8-tetrahydrofolate (THFA) is as a carrier of a C1 (methanoate) unit in the biosynthesis of purines, serines and glycine. The nitrogen atoms at 5 and 10 positions are reactive sites of the molecule. Good sources of Vitamin Bc are most green leaves, which are especially rich in the vitamin. [Reference: Dr. Karl N. Harrison (2002), Chemistry IT Centre for the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford].     

Suggested Amount:     

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of folic acid is 400 mcg/day. Doses ranging between 1,000 to 5,000 mcg daily are not uncommon and many researchers believe that just taking 400 to 1,000 mcg daily of folic acid could save people from heart attack, cancer and psychiatric disturbances. Folic acid is found especially concentrated in 'greens' supplements and foods including spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, lima beans, beef liver, parsley, broccoli and romaine lettuce (>10% per 1 cup serving).

Drug Interactions:     

None known.     

Contraindications:     

None known.     

Side Effects:     

None known. However, very high doses of folic acid (5000-10,000mcg daily) could mask symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia unless proper tests are done. Consult a physician if you suspect that you might have this condition.    

References:     

Carper, J. 1993. Food Your Miracle Medicine. HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299. Pp. 207; 209; 251; 265; 288-289; 402-403; 464-465; 490-491.
 
Carper, J. 1995. Stop Aging Now. HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299. Pp. 72-77.
 
Duke JA. 1992. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and their Activities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, Pp. 163-164.
 
Heimburger, D.C. 1992. Localized deficiencies of folic acid in aerodigestive tissues. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 669: 87-95.
 
Wilson ML, Murphy PA. 2001. Herbal and dietary therapies for primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001; (3): CD002124. Review.
 
   
Additional Information:     

None.