Folic Acid – What’s the News?

What is it and why do we need it? Folic acid is one of the B vitamins. It is water-soluble and naturally occurs in foods such as beans, yeast, mushrooms, orange juice, tomato juice and green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, lettuce, okra, asparagus. Some fruits also high in this vitamin are bananas, melons and lemons.

Federal law has required that folic acid be added to cold cereal, flour, bread, pasta, cookies and crackers since the late 1980s when it became a federal law. It is often used in combination with other B vitamins.

We need it in our daily diets to treat liver disease (alcoholism and kidney dialysis), ulcerative colitis and to prevent conditions such as anemia and the inability of the bowel to absorb nutrients properly. Alcohol consumption can prevent the body from properly absorbing this vitamin. You can prevent or reverse this deficiency by eating a diet high in the foods listed above.

This vitamin can also be used to prevent colon cancer or cervical cancer, stroke and heart disease. High homocysteine levels appear to make for a high risk of heart disease. This vitamin can be used to reduce high levels of the chemical homocysteine in our blood and therefore, prevent some of these heart problems.

This vitamin has a myriad of other uses for conditions including, vitiligo (a skin disease) restless leg syndrome, sleep problems, depression, muscle pain, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, hearing loss, eye diseases such as macular degeneration, osteoporosis and AIDS.

There are medications that have harmful side effects such as lometrexol and methotrexate; folic acid helps reduce the side effects of those medications as well as treating a disease called Fragile-X syndrome. Some dentists recommend applying folic acid directly to the gums when gum infection is present.

Women of child bearing age who are pregnant or may become pregnant should be very sure to take this vitamin to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida and to prevent miscarriage and neural tube defects. This vitamin has a part in producing the genetic material called DNA as well as the proper development of the human body.

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