Benefits of folic acid and why it's not just for pregnant women

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate and part of the B-vitamin group. There are many different types of B-vitamins with important functions and benefits to the human body.

Folic acid is most often associated with pregnancy, however it is essential for everyone as it aids the genetic materials of cells (DNA). It is particularly important for maintaining a healthy nervous system and in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. A drop in the number of red blood cells in the blood can indicate a deficiency of folic acid.

Role of folic acid in pregnancy

Folic acid is vital for the development of the baby’s spinal cord and nervous system and prevents neural tube defects including spina bifida. Since this is one of the first things to develop in the baby, it is vital that women take a daily supplement of folic acid while trying to conceive and during the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy.

The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. It is difficult to get enough folic acid to prevent neural tube defects from diet alone when pregnant. Sometimes a higher dose of folic acid is required for women who have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect. If at risk your GP will advise you to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid daily and until they are 12 weeks pregnant.

Folic Acid is particularly important for maintaining a healthy nervous system and in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen

Folic acid in everyday life

Adults require 0.2mg of folic acid a day as the body is unable to store it. Most people should be able to obtain the recommended allowance by having a varied diet. A deficiency can result in anaemia causing the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that are unable to function properly, leading to symptoms such as extreme tiredness. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, pins and needles, a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, muscle weakness, and memory problems.

Having a folate deficiency 

You are at risk of being folate deficient if you have an inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption syndromes such as coeliac disease, alcoholism or certain medications such as anti-epileptic medication like phenytoin. Folate deficiency can easily be treated with tablets to replace inadequate folate levels and should usually be taken for four months. In some situations, improving your diet can help treat the condition and prevent it recurring.

What are the sources of folates?

The best sources of folate include green vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas and brown rice. Certain breakfast cereals and some fat spreads such as margarine have folic acid added to them. Less obvious examples of folic acid sources include cauliflower, egg yolk, lentils, oranges, parsnips, sunflower seeds and whole wheat bread.

The best sources of folate include green vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas and brown rice

Supplementing with folic acid

If you are looking for a folic acid supplement you can try Seven Seas Perfect7 Woman which is a blend of Natural Source Marine Oil with Omega-3 plus essential multivitamins and minerals and this includes 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. The special formula provides effective absorption of nutrients into your body's cells to support you from the inside as you get older.

Similarly, Seven Seas Perfect7 Prime, which is a blend of Natural Source Marine Oil with Omega-3 and Ginkgo Biloba, also incorporates folic acid (200 micrograms (mcg) in both Perfect7 Prime Man and Perfect7 Prime Woman. Dietary supplements that contain only folic acid are also available.

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