FOLIC ACID or FOLATE: what is it for, use in pregnancy and food

L'folic acid (vitamin B9) is an important substance for our body, necessary for the construction of new ones cells. In fact, folic acid is involved in the synthesis of purines, basic nitrogenous bases for the construction of the double helix of DNA. For this it is part of the therapy in the megaloblastic anemias, together with vitamin B12. Folic acid also has a protective role, reducing the incidence of melanoma and other cancers, and, if taken regularly before pregnancy, lowering the risk of miscarriage or fetal abnormalities.

Folic acid

What is folic acid? With the term folic acid it refers to a vitamin belonging to group B, also known as folacin, folate or vitamin B9 (vit B9). This vitamin is indispensable for the body throughout its existence, starting from the embryonic stage and in particular at times when the body needs to build new cells, such as during pregnancy.

More properly, folic acid is a molecule obtained in the laboratory; it is found in food supplements and in some foods artificially enriched with this element.
Folic acid should not be confused with i folate, which, although belonging to the same vitamin group, have a different chemical composition and are naturally present in different foods.

Folic acid is chemically formed from the union of three molecules: 6-methylpterin, p-aminobenzoic acid, abbreviated to PABA and glutamic acid. There structure offolic acid is C19H19N7O6.

Folic acid is introduced into the body mainly through food, and its absorption occurs in the first part of the jejunum, the first part of the small intestine, which is located after the duodenum.

Chemical formula of folic acid

Structure and chemical formula of folic acid.

What is folic acid used for

But folic acid to what is needed? what functions does it have in the human body? L'folic acid is essential for the correct performance of many functions inman. In particular it is useful to growth and to cell repair, for this reason it is essential in the life of cells that regenerate very frequently, such as those of the blood and skin, and even more so in those of new formation, such as embryonic cells.

L'folic acid is it also useful for something else? Of course: vitamin B9 is also necessary for the synthesis of DNA, whose regular functioning is very important for the prevention of tumors; folic acid in fact also contributes to a correct metabolism physiological, in particular in the synthesis of proteins.

A correct daily income of folate ensures proper growth and health of hair and of the skin, preventing the weakening and / or loss of hair and strengthening the skin.

L'folic acid it also has others property? Among the most important functions of folate there is also the production of leukocytes, the white blood cells responsible for the proper functioning of the immune system, and of erythrocytes, the red blood cells that carry oxygen to cells. Folate also has the property of helping to lower blood sugar levels.

What foods are folic acid found in?

Where is folic acid found? That Does Food Contain Vitamin B9? Vitamin B9 is present in many foods in nature, both of origin animal that of origin vegetable and artificially enhanced foods such as biscuits, flours, milk and yogurt are increasingly common on the market. They are by nature very rich in folic acid eggs, liver (especially beef liver) and offal, but also legumes, cereals and oatmeal. I'm rich foods of folic acid green leafy vegetables, including kale, broccoli, spinach, and rocket; fresh fruit, in particular citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis and avocados; dried fruit, especially walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts.

It is also important to remember that although the human body is unable to fully absorb the folate found in such foods, food with folic acid also provides many other important nutrients, such as fiber and vitamins belonging to other groups, and is at the same time low in cholesterol, sodium and fat. However, cooking often drastically reduces the content of vitamin B9 present in these foods, as it is a very thermolabile substance. In fact, it is estimated that almost half of the total amount of folic acid contained in a food can be lost during cooking. The quickest way to replenish folate stores is by using supplements.

Folic acid and nutrition

Folic acid is introduced into the diet via a wide range of foods.

Folic acid supplements

Folic acid is often taken in the form of dietary supplement to make up for a dietary or metabolic deficiency. It can be taken as monotherapy, as in the case of well-known drugs such as Fertifol, Lederfolin  or Folina. Often in these cases it is synthesized in the form of calcium folinate or calcium levofolinate. In some cases it is associated with substances, as in the case of the combination folic acidvitamin C. (ascorbic acid) or the combination folic acidiron, as in the case of Ferrograd Folic, Sideral Folico or Ferrofolin.

Often, folic acid is included in multivitamin complexes containing B vitamins such as vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin, there vitamin B1 or thiamine and the vitamin B6 or pyridoxime. Some well-known supplements containing this combination of substances are Cianofolin, Normocis Epargriseovit and Eparmefolin.

So, which folic acid to take? Ultimately, there are no major differences between the various formulations and the various pharmaceutical companies: your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the type of product that is right for you.

Folic acid supplements

Folic acid is contained in many supplements, alone or in combination with other vitamins or minerals and other trace elements.

Folic acid in pregnancy

It is useful to take folic acid first of the pregnancy? During gestation the body of the woman is subjected to a hard work of cell division, for this reason the natural reserves of folic acid can be completely exhausted. And so essential to reintroduce folate into the body through supplements rich in vitamin B9.

The intake of folic acid must start at least 3 months before conception, and continue until pregnancy. This is very important because if you started only when you become aware of the pregnancy, the formation of the ectodermal leaflet on which the development of the spine and head depends would have already occurred, and any malformations, if present, could have already started to develop.

Folic acid is needed for the Welfare of the mother and even more for one growth healthy of fetus, as it prevents severe malformations heart and skull. It is also very useful for preventing spina bifida, a terrible fetal malformation linked to the incomplete formation of one or more vertebrae. In fact, folic acid taken during pregnancy favors the regular development of the neural tube, the nucleus from which the backbone is generated and from which the central nervous system originates. Folic acid in pregnancy it also prevents malformations of the lips and palate (cleft palate) and contributes to the normal development of the limbs.

Useful for the production of red blood cells, folate and its derivative,tetrahydrofolic acid, if deficient they can cause megaloblastic anemia, which consists in an excessive development of the size of red blood cells, which however contain low amounts of hemoglobin. For this reason vitamin B9 supplements are strongly recommended during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, but also in the months immediately preceding conception.

What is the recommended daily dose of folic acid to ensure a protective effect on women in pregnancy? There daily dose of folic acid ranges from 0.2 mg (200 micrograms) to 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folate per day. There maximum dose normally recommended is 1 mg of folic acid per day (1000 micrograms), above which there is talk of folate overdose. In pregnancy, however, the requirement daily of folic acid it increases, and the woman can arrive exceed this threshold, taking in some cases particularly at risk, up to 4-5 mg of folate per day. In any case, the daily dose of folic acid should always be discussed with your doctor, avoiding self-medication.


Low folic acid: causes and symptoms

What does a folate deficiency entail? Since folate is present in various foods, anyone who follows a healthy and balanced diet should not run into folic deficiency problems, however there are some conditions and diseases that hinder the normal absorption of vitamin B9 by the body in the 'man and are associated with the presence of low folic acid in the blood.
Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Chron's disease, food intolerances such as celiac disease, the intake of anti-arthritic, anti-epileptic and chemotherapy drugs are factors that can cause a shortage of folic acid in the body.

Some types of antibiotics are also considered antagonists offolic acid; in the same way, the excessive intake of alcohol and tobacco limits the absorption of vitamin B9 in a serious way. There shortage of folic acid inman generally has symptoms similar to those of anemia, including chronic weakness, paleness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, memory disturbances and recurrent headaches. But also fragility of nails and hair, more or less severe alterations of the skin and mucous membranes, mood swings and digestive system disorders, including mainly nausea and diarrhea. Furthermore, vitamin B9 deficiency negatively affects the sleep / wake rhythm and can lead to loss of appetite.

What are the benefits of folate

Vitamin B9 is useful in the prevention of various diseases and to keep the symptoms of some chronic diseases under control.
Since i folate are essential for the production of red blood cells, the constant intake of folic acid is advisable to prevent some types of anemia, in particular macrocytic anemia, such aspernicious anemia, or that derived from the use of chemotherapy or anti-ulcer drugs.
The folic acid treatment it has been shown to be effective in relieving arthritic pain and promoting proper functioning of the liver and urinary tract.

The heart and circulatory system also receive numerous benefits from taking vit. B9: in fact it reduces the levels of homocysteine in the blood. This amino acid, if present in too high a quantity, damages the peripheral vascular system and can cause the onset of stroke and other serious diseases, such as atherosclerosis, thrombosis and heart attack. High levels of homocysteine, moreover, they favor the onset of complications in patients with celiac disease and are related to the onset of depression and dementia in people affected by Parkinson's disease.

In the sports field, some scientific evidence shows how a folic acid deficiency can affect athletic performance. L'use of folic acid in sport, however, it is currently not recommended except as a food supplement in those who are deficient. THE benefits offolic acid they are also known in psychology and psychiatry. This element is in fact useful in the treatment of schizophrenia and depressive or bipolar disorders.

In ophthalmology i folate they are used to prevent macular degeneration and glaucoma, the appearance of which is once again related to the increase in homocysteine in the blood. People over the age of sixty use folic acid to reduce or delay hearing loss.
Recent oncology studies have shown that a diet rich in folic acids can prevent lung cancer. Also high levels of folate in the blood seem to help reduce the incidence of epidermal cancers such as melanomas or basaliomas (read for example this scientific publication). If taken in conjunction with vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid  is vitamin B3 (also called vitamin PP or niacin), Vitamin B9 can even help preserve natural hair color for longer.

What contraindications or side effects do folate have?

The assumption of folic acid supplements it should always be agreed with your doctor, especially in the presence of pre-existing diseases or if you are already taking other drugs.
Nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia and irritability are among the side effects more frequent occurring especially in subjects suffering from kidney disease, infections of various kinds and anemia.

Vitamin B9 supplements can adversely affect the intake of some medications, limiting the usefulness in particular of antiepileptics and medicines that fight hypertension. Although the anticancer abilities of the folate, it has also been proven that in the case of existing neoplasms, the introduction of folic acid is harmful as it can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments.

There are others side effects related to the hiring of folina? Very often high folic acid in the blood does not lead to any specific consequences. In some cases, however, massive overdose of folic acid can occur skin erythema, muscle cramps, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and lack of assimilation of zinc, which is important for the body because it strengthens the immune system and because it has antioxidant and antidiabetic properties.

On the other hand, there are some drugs that can prevent the body from absorbing vitamin B9, such as methotrexate. The methotrexate, or methotrexate, is an anticancer drug belonging to the category of antiblastics, and acts as a folate antagonist: it is used in the treatment of cancer and some autoimmune diseases. To work around this problem, thefolinic acid, folic acid derivative.

In the past, some doubts had arisen about the use of folate in cancer patients, but also about the continuous intake of multivitamin supplements. For example, there has recently been an increased risk of lung cancer in people who abuse supplements containing vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, such as you can read here. Not only then does folic acid seem to have no effect in preventingonset of colon cancer, (see also this article), but according to some scholars it could also have favored its onset.

A recent study published in 2015 showed no additional risk of tumors of the colon in relation to the levels of folate in the blood. Ultimately, there is still no definitive evidence regarding the protective effect or otherwise of folic acid on the risk of onset of carcinomas or other neoplasia in people who take significant quantities.

Folinic acid

What is thefolinic acid? Folinic acid, also called leucovorin or leucovorinit is a mixture of the isomers of a derivative of tetrahydrofolic acid. Folinic acid, unlike folic acid, does not require reduction by the dihydrofolic reductase enzyme in order to intervene in reactions that use folate, and can be used in the form of calcium folinate as a drug to reduce the toxic effects of methotrexate or pyrimethamine.



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