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  Folic Acid Requirement  
 
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Signs, symptoms and indicators | Conditions that suggest it | Contributing risk factors | Other conditions that may be present | Recommendations

 

Folic acid, folate and folacin refer to one of the b-vitamins required for a healthy body. Folic acid aids in the prevention of birth defects called neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

Whether or not a woman is expecting a child, it is recommended that women of child-bearing age take folic acid every day in order to help prevent NTDs. It is recommended that women take 0.6mg (600mcg) folic acid daily prior to conception and through the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Although folic acid is found in vegetables, fruits, grain products, meat and meat alternatives, it is difficult to get the entire amount from food. Cooking foods at high heat on the stove or in a microwave, or with too much water, will reduce folate content. Try to eat vegetables lightly steamed or raw.

To get the required daily intake, it is recommended that both men and women consume good sources of folic acid every day, as well as a multivitamin supplement which contains 0.2mg (200mcg) or more of folic acid. Taking more than 1mg (1000mcg) of folic acid is not recommended unless prescribed by your physician.
 

 
 

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Folic Acid Requirement:
 
 
Lab Values - Cells  Macrocytic red cells

Lab Values - Nutrients

  Low folic acid level or history of folic acid deficiency

Counter-indicators:
  Normal/high folic acid level
 
 

Conditions that suggest Folic Acid Requirement:
 
 
Autoimmune  Gluten Sensitivity / Celiac Disease
 Mild malabsorption may result in a folic acid deficiency.

Immunity

  Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)
 See the link between apthous ulcers and iron deficiency.

Mental

  Depression
 There is substantial scientific evidence linking folic acid deficiency to depression. Folate deficiency is common in depressed individuals. [Journal of Psychiatric Research 1982;20(2): pp.91-101, British Journal of Psychiatry 1991;159: pp.271-2, Nutrition Reviews 1997;55(5): pp.145-9]

Again, a lower dietary folic acid intake was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms in a study of over 2,000 middle aged men in Finland. There was no link detected between the intake of cobalamin (B12), pyridoxine (B6) or riboflavin (B2), and depression in this study. [J Nutr 2003;133(10): pp.3233-6]

Musculo-Skeletal

  Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) / Periodic Limb Moveme
 See the treatment link between RLS and folic acid.

Risks

  Increased Risk of Leukemia
 Maternal folic acid supplementation during pregnancy was associated with a reduced risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children in a study in Western Australia. [Lancet 2001;358(9297): pp.1935-40]
 
 

Risk factors for Folic Acid Requirement:
 
 
Autoimmune  Crohn's Disease
 All inflammatory bowel disease patients are prone to low serum folate levels.

  Ulcerative Colitis
 All inflammatory bowel disease patients are prone to low serum folate levels. The drug sulfasalazine depletes the body of folic acid, so anyone taking sulfasalazine should be supplementing their diet with folic acid.

Medications

  Birth Control Pill / Contraceptive Issues
 Birth control pill use tends to cause folic acid depletion.

Supplements and Medications

  (Past) H2-blocker antacid use
 There is some evidence that H2 blockers may slightly reduce the absorption of folate. Folate is an important nutrient and one that is commonly deficient in the diet, so if you are taking H2 blockers you should probably take folate supplements as well.

  Typical/high Metformin use
 See the link between this question and Megaloblastic Anemia.


Counter-indicators:
  Multiple vitamin supplement use
  History of folic acid use or folic acid supplementation
 
 

Folic Acid Requirement suggests the following may be present:
 
 
Autoimmune  Ulcerative Colitis
 All inflammatory bowel disease patients are prone to low serum folate levels. The drug sulfasalazine depletes the body of folic acid, so anyone taking sulfasalazine should be supplementing their diet with folic acid.

  Crohn's Disease
 All inflammatory bowel disease patients are prone to low serum folate levels.
 
 

Recommendations for Folic Acid Requirement:
 
 
Vitamins  Vitamin Folic Acid
 
 


KEY
Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
Likely to help







GLOSSARY

Acute:  An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.

AIDS:  Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. An immune system deficiency disorder that suddenly alters the body's ability to defend itself. The AIDS virus invades the T4 helper/inducer lymphocytes and multiplies, causing a breakdown in the body's immune system, eventually leading to overwhelming infection and/or cancer, with ultimate death.

Anemia:  A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.

Cobalamin:  Vitamin B-12. Essential for normal growth and functioning of all body cells, especially those of bone marrow (red blood cell formation), gastrointestinal tract and nervous system, it prevents pernicious anemia and plays a crucial part in the reproduction of every cell of the body i.e. synthesis of genetic material (DNA).

Folic Acid:  A B-complex vitamin that functions along with vitamin B-12 and vitamin C in the utilization of proteins. It has an essential role in the formation of heme (the iron containing protein in hemoglobin necessary for the formation of red blood cells) and DNA. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy to prevent neural tubular defects in the developing fetus.

H2 Blockers:  Medications in this family sharply decrease stomach acid production. They are widely used for the treatment of ulcers as well as for mild cases of esophageal reflux (heartburn). Drugs that fall into this family include cimetidine (Tagamet, Tagamet HB); famotidine (Pepcid, Pepcid AC, Pepcid RPD); nizatidine (Axid, Axid AR); ranitidine hydrochloride (Zantac, Zantac EFFERdose, Zantac GELdose, Zantac 75).

Iron:  An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.

Leukemia:  Cancer of the lymph glands and bone marrow resulting in overproduction of white blood cells (related to Hodgkin's disease).

Microgram:  (mcg): 1/1,000 of a milligram in weight.

Milligram:  (mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Neural Tube:  The tube of tissue that lies along the central axis of the early embryo. It gives rise to the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the central nervous system.

Pyridoxine:  (Vitamin B-6): A B-complex vitamin that plays a role as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It facilitates the release of glycogen for energy from the liver and muscles. It also participates in the utilization of energy in the brain and nervous tissue and is essential for the regulation of the central nervous system.

Riboflavin:  (Vitamin B-2): A B-complex vitamin that acts as a coenzyme that activates the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is essential for cellular oxidation and necessary for healthy skin and eyes.

Serum:  The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.

Spina Bifida:  A nerve tube defect present at birth that results in a gap in the bone that surrounds the spinal cord. Spina bifida is relatively common, occurring about 10 to 20 times per 1,000 births.

Ulcer:  Lesion on the skin or mucous membrane.

Vitamin B6:  Influences many body functions including regulating blood glucose levels, manufacturing hemoglobin and aiding the utilization of protein, carbohydrates and fats. It also aids in the function of the nervous system.