What Are the Benefits of Folic Acid Vitamins?

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Folic acid, or B9, is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be stored in the body. Urine transports leftover folic acid out of the body through urine, and you need to get this nutrient from your foods. This vitamin assists in tissue growth, cell function and protein production. You experience multiple health benefits from taking folic acid vitamins.

Birth Defects

Folic acid vitamins reduce unborn children’s risks of developing birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida occurs when the spinal canal and backbone don’t close during gestation. Children with spina bifida spend a lifetime confined to a wheelchair. Anencephaly is when large sections of the brain and skull are missing. Doctors discover this condition via amniocentesis or an ultrasound. Babies with anencephaly usually miscarry or die a few days after birth. The U.S. National Library of Medicine website says women need 400 mcg of folic acid daily for at least a month before conception to the end of the first trimester.

Control Homocysteine Levels

Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 work together to control the levels of homocysteine in the blood. Researchers have linked this amino acid with heart disease, depression, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. The American Heart Association says more research needs to be conducted but recommends 400 mcg of folic acid as part of a healthy diet as opposed to taking a supplement.

Cancer

Take folic acid vitamins to reduce the risks of developing cancers. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, folic acid protects you from developing colon, breast, cervical, pancreatic and stomach cancers. Researchers believe folic acid prevents DNA materials from mutating into cancer cells. A population study of more than 50,000 women found that folate decreases alcohol-related breast cancer. Fiber-rich foods containing folic acid reduce the risk of developing colon cancer because they move waste out of the digestive tract.

Other Functions

Folic acids work with other B vitamins to help your skin, hair, eyes and liver remain healthy. The University of Maryland Medical Center website says folic acid and vitamin B12 help red blood cell formation and help iron do its job.

Food Sources

Eating foods containing folic acid as part of a healthy diet is better than taking supplements. Folic acid-rich foods include beans and legumes, citrus fruits, whole grains, dark leafy greens, liver, chicken, shellfish, asparagus and fortified cereals.

Deficiencies

Side effects of folic acid deficiencies include stunted growth, gray hair, anemia, weakness, diarrhea, mouth ulcers and peptic ulcers. To prevent this vitamin deficiency, eat a varied diet of folate-rich foods.

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