Folic Acid Facts
Here are some quick facts about folic acid, one the most important vitamins for pregnant women.
Names of Folic Acid
•- Folic acid is a form of Vitamin B9
•- Folate is the naturally occurring form of folic acid
•- Also known as Pteroylglutamic acid and Folacin
Role of Folic Acid in the Body
•- cell growth and division (formation of DNA)
•- formation of red and white blood cells
•- reduces risk of birth defects (such as anencephaly and spina bifida)
•- helps prevent heart disease and stroke by reducing the amount a homocysteine in the bloodstream, an amino acid that is associated with heart-related problems
•- improves memory and cognition
Foods Containing Folic Acid
The following foods are rich in folic acid: Liver, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits (i.e. oranges), nuts, beans (legumes), whole grains. In some countries many foods are fortified with folic acid and then labeled "enriched." Canada, for example, requires grain and bread producers to add folic acid to their products (i.e. white rice, pasta, flour; in addition, many breakfast cereals contain "100 percent of the Daily Value of Folic Acid."
Recommended Daily Amounts: To significantly prevent the risk of bearing children with birth defects, all women of childbearing age and especially women are trying to conceive should ingest at least 400 mcg (micrograms) - or 0.4 mg (milligrams) - of folic acid daily. Note that birth defects often develop in the very earliest stages of pregnancy, i.e. within the first four weeks before most women even know they are expecting - hence the importance for all young women to increase their folic acid intake. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should continue to ingest folic acid, in the amounts recommended to them by their health practitioner. Folic acid is available in pill form in most multivitamins and as folic acid-only supplements, as well as in chewable and liquid products.
Although many food products contain folate, the body is unable to process this natural form of folic acid as easily as the manmade alternative. Hence even a well-balanced diet rarely provides sufficient quantities of folic acid, and therefore vitamin supplements are necessary.
Buyer Beware: Upper Limit of Folic Acid
Consuming more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day can cause nerve damage, therefore do not go overboard! This occurs because excess amounts of folic acid can actually hide a lack of B12, another essential vitamin. There is no such restriction, however, on the amount of foods containing folate that women can eat. (Most prenatal vitamins already contain the correct amount women need)