Folate is one form of an important vitamin (vitamin B9) that is found in dark green, leafy vegetables, many fortified cereals, beans, wheat bran and other whole grains. The term folate is sometimes used interchangeably with folic acid, but for those of you sticklers for detail out there, here’s a fun fact: folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 -- the form found in foods like oranges, grapefruit, spinach, chicken, and shellfish. Folic acid is the man-made form of the vitamin -- this is the form you will find in fortified cereals (cereals made out of grains that don’t contain folate) as well as in dietary supplements.Regardless of the form, it is really important for you to get enough of it. Guys who are older than 14 need 800 micrograms a day. Girls and women ages 14-50 need at least 800 micrograms daily; pregnant women should aim for 1,000 micrograms a day. Get about half from food and half from supplements is a common recommendation. Women who are older than 50 need 800 micrograms a day. It’s especially important for pregnant women because getting the right amount of folic acid is necessary to prevent a serious birth defect called spina bifida as well as decrease Junior’s risk of cancer in his early years. There is a risk in too much…more than 1,200 micrograms a day seems to foster the growth of some cancers -- such as some breast cancers, just as too little fosters cancer’s initiation.
A Answers (4)
Michael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
Stacy Wiegman, PharmD, Pharmacy, answeredFolate is the natural form of folic acid. “Synthetic folic acid” is a simple, man-made form. Most multivitamins and enriched foods contain this form. The body can’t process folate as easily as folic acid. The typical daily dose of folic acid is 400 micrograms (mcg. or ug.). It’s unknown if the same amount of dietary folate provides these benefits. Women who can get pregnant should consume 400 daily mcg. of folic acid. They should also consume natural folate in their regular diet. Folate-rich foods include:
• Leafy, dark green vegetables
• Citrus fruits and juices
• Beans and peas
• Enriched grain products, like breads and cereals
Folate is a water soluble vitamin. There are two forms of the vitamin folate:
- the naturally occurring folate in foods, and
- the synthetic form, folic acid, which is added to foods (such as ready-to-eat cereals, enriched grains in bread) and found in supplements.
(Note: A very small amount of folic acid can occur naturally in foods. But, for practical purposes, folic acid typically refers to the synthetic variety.)
Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid is well-tolerated in amounts found in fortified foods and supplements. Sources include cereals, baked goods, leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (bananas, melons, lemons), legumes, yeast, mushrooms, organ meat (beef liver, kidney), orange juice, and tomato juice. Folic acid is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex formulations.
Folic acid supplements are effective for increasing folate levels in blood and decreasing symptoms associated with low folate levels. Folic acid supplementation, with and without other B vitamins, reduce levels of homocysteine in blood (a cardiovascular risk factor).
Folic acid supplements are suggested for use in women of childbearing age in order to prevent neural tube defects. Neural tube defect risk appears to have decreased in many countries since folic acid fortification of flour and cereals.
Folic acid is also of interest with respect to cognitive enhancement, cancer, psychiatric illnesses, and cardiovascular conditions, although conclusions may not be drawn for many of these uses at this time. Some concern exists with respect to increased folic acid intake masking symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in the elderly population.
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