Folic acid helps in the growth of red blood cells and rapid cell division, but this B Vitamin is a lot more than that! Read on to know some benefits of Folic Acid (and more!)

Folic Acid plays an important role in producing healthy red blood cells, reducing birth risks in newborns, and more! Also referred to as the B9 vitamin, it is an important nutrient you can get from your everyday diet.

This article will give you an in-depth insight into the benefits that come with consuming Folate or the B9 vitamin. This article will in simple terms, help you understand the benefits, food sources, dosage, and more of Folic Acid.

What is folic acid?

Folic Acid, a B-Vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin. It’s a nutrient that helps keep DNA and other genetic material healthy so we can grow and develop normally. Some of Folic Acid’s functions include

  • repair and replication of DNA
  • maintaining effective and healthy cell division

It is an important vitamin for women’s pregnancy as well as children’s brain development. Let’s read ahead and understand the benefits of Folic Acid.

12 Benefits of folic acid

Folic Acid for Skin

Vitamin B9 helps relieve chronic skin inflammatory diseases such as; psoriasis (moderate to severe) especially those of you with concomitant hyperhomocysteinemia, low plasma folate, and additional cardiovascular risk factors. [1]

A 2011 study also said that Folic Acid may improve skin and show anti-aging properties. With age, collagen in the skin deteriorates, which leads to saggy skin. However, research proved that a cream containing Folic Acid along with creatine helped the expression of the collagen gene and collagen fiber density, increasing elasticity in the skin. [2]

A study also suggests that folates may play an important role in skin cancer prevention. This is because of their DNA repair and replication properties. This also means that a deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of developing cancer. [3]

Folic Acid for Treating Ulcers

Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis or RAS is an oral mucosal disease found in humans. In its minor form, RAS is found to be as common as mouth ulcers that we face from day to day.

A number of hematological studies were conducted on patients of RAS. It was found that patients with ulcers were in a folic acid deficit. (along with other nutrients like vitamin B12)

Studies show that Folic acid supplements may help relieve ulcers and RAS-related symptoms. [4]

Folic Acid for Women

If you’re a woman, you should consider consuming folic acid on a day-to-day basis. It is suggested by the CDC that a woman who can become pregnant should consume a minimum of 400mcg (micrograms) of Vitamin B9 per day. 

Consumption of Folic Acid is suggested to make sure there are no birth defects. Birth defects of the brain and spine can take place in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is usually before a woman even finds out about the pregnancy. Even if you have no intention of getting pregnant, it is suggested that you consume folic acid. [5

Neural Tube Defects are common but complex congenital malformations in the CNS (Central Nervous System). They take place due to failure of the closure of the neural tube during embryogenesis. NTDs occur in 1 – 10 out of 1000 pregnancies. They depend on factors like geography, ethnic culture, etc. The use of folic acid suggested a fall in the number of NTD cases. [6] 

Folic Acid also doesn’t influence miscarriage in women. Studies reflect that there are no risks to taking  Folic Acid. [7]

High or Low Folic Acid supplementation is also associated with high risks for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Studies have also proven that high folate in maternal blood at the time of birth increases the risk of Autism by 2.5%. It becomes extremely important to keep folate levels in control, especially for soon-to-be-mothers. [8]

The B9 Vitamin is also great for PCOS Management in women. Using 2 × 2000 mg Myo-inositol along with 2 × 200 mcg folic acid every day is a safe and promising tool and improves symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Not just does Folic Acid help those going through with PCOS, but it also helps with weaker fertility that comes with PCOS. PCOS leads to poor-quality oocytes. 

Studies showed that the consumption of folic acid and Myo-inositol was able to improve the oocyte quality, the ratio between follicles and retrieved oocytes. Folic Acid also improves the rate of fertilization and quality of embryos in PCOS/ PCOD patients that may be undergoing IVF treatments. [9]

Folic Acid for Men

Men generally do not have Folic Acid deficiency, but if and when you do, the side effects may be managed by consumption of required amounts of Folic Acid.

A double-blind placebo-controlled experiment study shows that consumption of Folic Acid by subfertile men led to an increase of 74% in total normal sperm count as well as a minor increase of 4% abnormal spermatozoa. [10]

Folic Acid for Heart Health

With growing age, you may be more likely to be diagnosed with a heart disease, the likeliness of which may be increased because of external stressors. Meta-analyses conducted proved that Folic Acid supplementation may reduce your risk of a stroke by 4% and overall cardiovascular diseases by 5%. [11]

Folic Acid for Hair

As you grow older, dark hair starts greying, you start losing hair. The market offers many serums and supplements to ensure that your hair doesn’t grey or fall off your scalp.

One of these many supplements is Folic Acid or the B9 Vitamin.

Studies show that the B9 Vitamin not only ensures that your hair doesn’t turn grey prematurely but also stays strong. This is because B9 Vitamin has rapid cell division properties.

It was also found that in a study of 52 people that those with prematurely grey hair had low folic acid levels. [12]

Folic Acid for Depression

Depression prevails in a lot of people’s lives; it may be stress, trauma, or abuse.

A meta-analysis showed that people with depression have a low level of folic acid levels. Supplements may help and benefit those with depression.

The benefits of Folic Acid include the maintenance of good mental well-being. [13]

Folic Acid for Diabetes

Diabetes is associated with “endothelial deflation” which is associated with the uncoupling of endothelial Nitric Oxide synthase enzyme. So the availability of NO is reduced. It is also proven that folates may potentially reverse the uncoupling of NO. 19 type 2 diabetic people were placed in a folic acid vs placebo-controlled study with an 8-week wash-out period.

Results showed that supplementing people with folic acid for 2 weeks can improve endothelial deflation in Type-2 Diabetics. [14]

Folic Acid for Inflammation

Because of Folic Acid’s properties of relief from endothelial deflation and cardio-vascular diseases, it is theoretically possible for folic acid’s benefits to include relief from inflammation. 

However, research about Folic Acid for Inflammation is limited currently. [15]

Folic Acid for Chronic Kidney Disease

If you are going through a Chronic Kidney Disease, you are, by extension, at risk for cardiovascular diseases. Chronic Kidney Diseases alone don’t explain the increased cardiovascular risk. External causes like hyperhomocysteinemia, the deficit of vitamin b12, and folic acid are believed to be the reason for increased risk.

Research is still ongoing about whether supplements of B12 will help reduce increased risk. Folic Acid, however, with or without Vitamin B12 is concluded to be adjunctive therapy for Chronic Kidney Diseases. [16] 

Folic Acid for Anaemia

Folate Deficiency Anaemia or B9 Anaemia is a condition where, due to the lack of Folic Acid, the body produces unusually large red blood cells that function abnormally.

The diagnosis of this type of Anaemia helps us understand what treatments work for you. Depending on the intensity and the cause of your anemia, you will be prescribed tablets, injections, or vitamin supplements. Sometimes, it may be necessary to take injections periodically throughout your lifetime. 

Hence, the benefits of folic acid in your diet will reflect in the long run. [17]

Folic Acid for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatic Arthritis is an auto-immune disease that causes joint pains throughout the body. Methotrexate is prescribed by doctors to treat Rheumatic Arthritis. It was found through a study that a low dose of Mehtotrextane may be toxic to the body and have minor, but harmful side effects. It also reduced the folate levels in the human body.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, with a sample group of 79 persons, it was proven that prescribing folate along with Methotrexate does not reduce the efficacy of Methotrexate, but reduces the toxic effect of the drug. 

Benefits of Folic Acid include being an inexpensive vitamin that protects people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis from the toxic effects of Methotrexate while preserving the efficacy of the drug. [18]

Foods rich in folic acid

Ensuring your daily diet includes Folic Acid-rich food is a step closer to ensuring you are not in a Folic Acid deficit. Refer to the table below for some food items that are rich in Folates.

While meats like beef or lamb are rich in Folates, leafy vegetables, beets, seeds, nuts, and legumes are vegetarian and vegan options.

Food Item Serving DV%
Boiled Kidney Beans 1 cup (177 gms) 33% (131 mcgs) [19]
Raw Spinach 1 cup (30 gms) 15% (58.2 mcgs) [20]
Raw Beetroot 1 cup (136 gms) 37% (148 mcgs) [21]
Orange 1 no. (large) 14% (55 mcgs) [22]
Boiled Broccoli ½ cup (78 gms) 21% (84 mcgs) [23]
Walnuts 1 ounce (28 gms) 7% (28 mcgs) [24]
Flax Seeds 1 ounce (28 gms) 6% (24 mcgs) [25]
Cooked Beef Liver 3 ounces (85 gms) 54% (212 mcgs) [26]

Folic acid dosage

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Folic Acid for all ages is listed below [27]

Age Group Recommended Dietary Allowance
Birth to 6 months 65 mcg/day*
7 months to 12 months 80 mcg/day*
1 year to 3 years 150 mcg/day
4 years to 8 years 200 mcg/day
9 years to 13 years 300 mcg/day
14 years and up 400 mcg/day
Pregnant women 600 mcg/day
Breastfeeding women 500 mcg/day

∗ Adequate Intake (AI)

People who regularly drink alcohol should aim for at least 600 mcg DFE of folate daily since alcohol can impair its absorption.

What happens when you take too much folic acid?

A surplus in Folic Acid is not caused when you consume foods rich in Folic Acid. When you consume Folic Acid via supplements and fortified foods, chances are that the vitamin remains unmetabolized and accumulates in your blood. [28]

Your body goes through many side effects when there is a surplus of unmetabolized folic acid in your blood.

A surplus of Folic Acid may hide the deficiency of Vitamin B12

Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 are used very similarly by the human body. 

Your body uses Vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells and to ensure that the heart and brain are working efficiently.  A decline in B12 may lead to abnormal functioning of the brain and further lead to permanent brain and nerve damage.

If, because of the surplus of Folic Acid, the deficit of B12 goes unnoticed, it cannot be treated.

A surplus of Folic Acid may fasten mental decline 

A surplus of Folic Acid (especially when there is a deficiency of Vitamin B12) may lead to mental decline faster than it will for other people your age.

A study showed that faster mental decline in people over 60 years was linked to high folic acid levels. This didn’t happen with people who had normal B12 levels.

This surplus also only came from supplements and fortified foods. [29]

Some other side effects may include:

  1. A surplus of Folic Acid may induce the resurgence of Cancer. [30]
  2. A surplus of Folic Acid during pregnancy may disrupt the brain development of the baby. [31]
  3. A surplus of Folic Acid may cause respiratory problems due to bronchospasm.

What happens if you take too little folic acid?

Folic Acid is a water-soluble vitamin. Hence, excess healthy folic acid cannot be stored as fats. This means our body has no Folic reserves. The one way to ensure you don’t have a Folic Acid deficiency is to include Folic Acid rich foods in your diet.

If you have a Folic Acid deficiency, these are the possible conditions your body might go through – [17]

  1. extreme fatigue
  2. ulcers
  3. distorted vision
  4. memory problems
  5. mental health issues like depression
  6. muscle weakness

Who is at higher risk of developing Folic Acid deficiency?

Folic Acid deficiency is commonly seen in

  1. pregnant women
  2. lactating women
  3.  people with alcohol dependence
  4. people with chronic gastrointestinal diseases
  5. people following restricted diets due to mental conditions
  6. people who do not follow a balanced diet

How to choose a folic acid supplement?

Most times, we can fulfill our folic requirements with Folate-rich foods. This might not be feasible for everyone depending on their dietary choices and restrictions. They have to intake the RDA of Folic Acid to stay healthy. Folic Acid Supplements are a good option in these cases.

Here are some things to keep in mind when picking a Folic Acid supplement.

  1. While picking a supplement, always ensure it is third-party tested.
  2. Look out for artificial colors and dyes
  3. Watch out for harmful fillers.
  4. Good brands will add labels of hypoallergenic, Non- GMO, gluten-free, and vegetarian/vegan, etc.
  5. Look at the dosage of the vitamin.
  6. Make sure you get the most bioavailable form of Folic Acid.

Always be on the lookout for additional ingredients since they could trigger allergic reactions if you are allergic to some substances.

Interaction with Medication

Folate can interact with medications that you may take for other reasons, here are a few of them.

  • Methotrexate
  • Antiepileptic Medication
  • Sulfasalazine

FAQ’s

Q: Does Folic Acid help in conceiving?

A: Yes, Folic Acid helps in conceiving. Folic Acid helps in increasing Fertility in both women and men. Folate increases ovulation and sperm count. 

Q: Do eggs have Folic Acid?

A: Yes, eggs have folate. One large egg alone can give you 22 mcg of folate, which is about 6% of the DV.

Q: How long after taking Folic Acid will I get pregnant?

A: You are most likely to become pregnant within 12 months of taking Folic Acid. This is especially true for those women with irregular cycles.

Q: What is the best time to take Folic Acid tablets?

A: If you are taking Folic Acid every day, take it at the same time every day either in the morning or evening. Remember to take your Acid tablets with a glass of water.

Q: How to take a Folic Acid tablet?

A: Take folic acid at the same time every day with a glass of water. You can take folic acid with or without food.

Wrapping up

Folic Acid or the B9 vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps produce red blood cells and ensures bodily processes are carried out efficiently. It is also important to carry out cell division and help during pregnancy and lactation. It helps with hair, skin, depression, heart health, arthritis, and more. 

Most people get enough Folic Acid in their diet without having to take a supplement. But if you are concerned about your Folic Acid levels, please get in touch with your physician or health care provider!

References

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  2. Fischer, Frank et al. “Folic acid and creatine improve the firmness of human skin in vivo.” Journal of cosmetic dermatology vol. 10,1 (2011): 15-23. 
  3. Williams, J D et al. “Folate in skin cancer prevention.” Sub-cellular biochemistry vol. 56 (2012): 181-97. 
  4. Kozlak, Scott T et al. “Reduced dietary intake of vitamin B12 and folate in patients with recurrent aphthous stomatitis.” Journal of oral pathology & medicine: official publication of the International Association of Oral Pathologists and the American Academy of Oral Pathology vol. 39,5 (2010): 420-3. 
  5. “Women Need 400 micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, 22 4 (2021)
  6. Imbard, Apolline et al. “Neural tube defects, folic acid and methylation.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 10,9 4352-89. 17 Sep. 2013
  7. Gindler, J et al. “Folic acid supplements during pregnancy and risk of miscarriage.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 358,9284 (2001) 4532-89
  8. Wiens, Darrell, and M Catherine DeSoto. “Is High Folic Acid Intake a Risk Factor for Autism?-A Review.” Brain sciences vol. 7,11 149. 10 Nov. 2017
  9. Regidor, Pedro-Antonio et al. “Management of women with PCOS using myo-inositol and folic acid. New clinical data and review of the literature.” Hormone molecular biology and clinical investigation vol. 34,2 /j/hmbci.2018.34.issue-2/hmbci-2017-0067/hmbci-2017-0067.xml. 2 Mar. 2018.
  10. Wong, Wai Yee et al. “Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” Fertility and sterility vol. 77,3 (2002)
  11. Li, Yanping et al. “Folic Acid Supplementation and the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of the American Heart Association vol. 5,8 e003768. 15 Aug. 2016.
  12. Daulatabad, Deepashree et al. “Prospective Analytical Controlled Study Evaluating Serum Biotin, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid in Patients with Premature Canities.” International journal of trichology vol. 9,1 (2017): 19-24. 
  13. Bender, Ansley et al. “The association of folate and depression: A meta-analysis.” Journal of psychiatric research vol. 95 (2017): 9-18. 
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  20. “Spinach, raw.” FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 4 2019.
  21. “Beets, raw.” FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 4 2019.
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