What Is Folic Acid and Why Do You Need It?
Think you are getting all of the vitamins you need from your diet alone? Think again. Many people don’t realize that it’s difficult to get certain vitamins from food alone. Multivitamins help fill in those nutrition gaps in the diet, especially when it comes to getting enough folic acid.
Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth. Studies have also shown that folic acid reduces the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and cognitive diseases or mental conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, age-related dementia and depression.
Consuming this amount of folic acid has been shown to help reduce the risk of serious birth defects of the brain and spine by as much as 50 to 70 percent. Experts recommend that women in their childbearing years consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from:
fortified foods like grains, pastas, or breakfast cereals,
daily multi-vitamin, and
eating a variety of foods as part of a healthy diet.
The best and most reliable way to get that amount is to take a multivitamin, B vitamin complex pill or folic acid pill.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of the naturally occurring folate, which is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, liver and some fruit. The synthetic version, folic acid, is found in multivitamins and fortified foods like breakfast cereal, pasta and bread. Scientists don’t know exactly why, but folic acid seems to be easier for your body to absorb than folate.
In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began fortifying grain and cereal products with folic acid in order to reduce birth defects of the brain and spine. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service now formally recommend that all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
By Lynda Metz, Director of Community Development at Bonner General Hospital. The facts and statistics in this article were provided by the National Council on Folic Acid.