We are talking about folic acid, an essential element for the body but too often underestimated. Some of you will have already heard of it under the name “vitamin B9 “, while others may know it as a food supplement or as a pharmacological supplement used in particular cases, which we will talk about. Most people, however, are not familiar with this element, and it’s a shame because it is a “multipurpose” vitamin with multiple virtues of great help both in the development and growth phases and in adulthood.
Let us, therefore, begin to get to know this element: Folic acid is part of the group of water-soluble vitamins, that is, those vitamins that dissolve in water and which, for this reason, cannot be systematically accumulated in the body, as happens with other elements. Let’s think, for example, about our calcium reserves: it is an element that can be accumulated by the body gradually thanks to a specifically designed diet. Or, how can we not think about our fat reserves? Much contested by those looking for a toned and lean physique, but so useful in case of need, when extra energy is needed!
Here, the same principle does not apply to folic acid; it cannot be “put aside” but must be taken regularly through food so that the body metabolizes the part it needs from time to time. Here is the first reason why folic acid is so important and why it is essential to consume it through food or integrate it with specific pharmacological therapies. In this article, we will discover all the further reasons why it is necessary to take the correct dose of folic acid, including its benefits for the body, its function, and its role in daily nutrition.
In fact, through a quick review of all the properties of vitamin B9, we will discover what a folic acid deficiency entails and how to remedy it, listing the main ingredients that contain it to a significant extent. Finally, we will try to understand what the daily requirement of folic acid is for an adult, always keeping in mind that every organism is different, so one person’s needs can be very different from those of others.
Folic Acid: The Properties Of Vitamin B9
As we mentioned, folic acid refers to vitamin B9. Just like vitamin Dells, it is also essential during pregnancy and gestation. Folic acid, in particular, is used in the synthesis of DNA (this means that it contributes to the correct transmission of hereditary characteristics), as well as in the synthesis of proteins and hemoglobin. Most pregnant women, therefore, supplement their diet with a treatment based on folic acid in order to increase the protection of the fetus during gestation and, even before that, promote the development of the embryo in the first weeks of pregnancy.
Thanks to a balanced presence of folic acid, for example, it is possible to prevent some congenital severe malformations of the fetus, which usually affect, in particular the area of the neural tube. This organic structure will give rise to the human nervous system. Pregnancy, after all, is a delicate moment; for this reason, there are specific supplements and vitamins to integrate all the elements the mother needs (we have already talked, for example, about lactose and pregnancy and how to make up for calcium deficiency). In general, vitamin B9 is essential not only for children, young people, and pregnant women but for the entire population of any gender and age.
A correct presence of vitamin B9 in the body, in fact, protects health from the most widespread risks of cardiovascular diseases. Scientific studies have shown, in this regard, that folic acid is able to reduce homocysteine values in the blood. It is an amino acid closely linked to the risk of developing widespread heart diseases, such as heart attacks. Furthermore, both in women and men, vitamin B9 is very useful in preventing anemia or the abnormal decrease in iron levels in the blood. This critical benefit is due to the cellular synthesis, due to folic acid, of hemoglobin, an element that, together with iron, transports oxygen to the tissues, re-establishing the correct level of red blood cells in circulation.
Foods Richest In Folic Acid
Precisely because it is so essential for health, it is necessary to integrate vitamin B9 into your diet as much as possible, especially in particular moments of life (growth, pregnancy, breastfeeding) or when you are under stress. Folic acid is not found in all foods; to have considerable doses of it, you must opt for broad-leafed vegetables, such as salad and spinach, or “green leafy”, such as broccoli, asparagus, and artichokes.
It is also found in chard, envy, rocket, and radicchio. Significant quantities of folic acid in foods can also be found in other greens and vegetables, such as tomatoes, cauliflower, and red turnips. Some products of animal origin are also sources of vitamin B9, such as liver meat (which is one of the rare foods that also contains vitamin D), lk, and, in smaller doses, whole grains. Many fruits are rich in vitamin B9, in particular:
- dried fruit such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios;
- fresh fruit, in particular, oranges, kiwis, lemons, mandarins, clementines, and avocados.
Finally, many believe that the consumption of some legumes (including beans, lentils, and chickpeas) is also relevant for the assimilation of folic acid. Be careful, though: as we mentioned, folic acid tends to disperse in water, so it is essential to keep in mind that large “binges” of these foods do not guarantee a long-term reserve of folic acid.
Furthermore, since folic acid is affected by excessive heat, it is counterproductive to subject the fares listed to prolonged or high-temperature cooking. To assimilate folic acid, it is better to consume as much as possible raw (or with delicate cuisine). When the doses of folic acid introduced through the diet are not sufficient to cover the daily requirement, vitamin B9 can be administered orally in the form of tablets to be taken according to different needs (and under the doctor’s prescription).
What Does Folic Acid Deficiency Cause?
Vitamin B9 deficiency is due to factors of genetic origin (predisposition), alcohol abuse, or the presence of some particular pathologies that can limit its absorption in specific insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and celiac disease. Usually, vitamin B9 deficiency can cause some more or less severe disorders, starting from muscle weakness and generalized tiredness, difficulty concentrating and headache, pallor and weight loss which can be related to a certain lack of appetite.
In the most severe situations, we encounter real cases of anemia, which must always be diagnosed through an accurate blood test. As we anticipated, folic acid deficiency is more problematic during pregnancy and breastfeeding because it can have adverse effects on the nervous system of the unborn child. It is essential that in the last months of gestation, folic acid levels are monitored and pharmacologically integrated if necessary. Otherwise, severe malformations of the fetus can occur. Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy is directly related to an increased risk of omphalocele (a term indicating the imperfect closure of the abdominal wall of the fetus, with the possible leakage of some organs) or of developing cases of spina bifida and cleft lip and palate (the so-called cleft lip).
Some children also run the risk of being born prematurely. An excess of vitamin B9, however, is unlikely to cause severe problems in the health of the individual, adult or infant, man or woman; usually, excess doses of folic acid are disposed of in a short time through the urine. Follow a drug therapy based on folic acid and incur an overdose. You may experience some side effects (slight tremors, unjustified nervousness, acceleration of the heartbeat), but they are short-lived. In these cases, it is best to contact your doctor.
Folic Acid: Here Is The Daily Requirement Of Vitamin B9
We close this brief guide to the importance of folic acid with a bit of information on the doses recommended by the healthcare system, with the warning that each individual, based on factors such as age, gender, weight, lifestyle, etc., will have to calibrate their need for vitamin B9 to their actual needs.
Generally, the daily requirement of vitamin B9 is around 0.2 mg per day; however, this dose may increase during pregnancy, a period in which future mothers are advised to double their consumption of folic acid to meet the needs of the fetus. In this case, therefore, the recommended daily intake is approximately 400 micrograms per day. In any case, it is recommended to consult a doctor’s opinion beforehand, especially if you intend to proceed with oral supplementation in the form of tablets.