Folic acid is one of the most important member in the B vitamins family. The terms folic acid and folate are often used interchangeably for this water-soluble B-complex vitamin. Folic acid, the most stable form, occurs rarely in foods or the human body, but is the form most often used in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.
Naturally occurring folates exist in many chemical forms. Folates are found in foods as well as in metabolically active forms, in the human body. In the following discussion, forms found in food or the body will be referred to as "folates", while the form found in supplements or fortified foods will be referred to as "folic acid".
Folic Acid Pregnancy and Babies
Every year in the United States about 2,500 babies are born with a neural tube defect (NTD). About 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 births - 11 a day - in the United States have a neural tube defect. The most common is the crippling defect spina bifid, or "open spine," which occurs when the vertebrae doesn't form a complete ring to protect the spine. Sometimes the brain never develops at all, a rare and always - fatal condition called anencephaly.
Recent studies have conclusively shown that taking 400 mcg of folic acid each day before getting pregnant can prevent between 50 and 75 percent of all neural tube defects. In 1992, the U.S. public Health Service recommended that all women of child - bearing age consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Every agency and organization concerned with birth defects, from the FDA to the March of Dimes, strongly endorsed this recommendation. And in 1998, the DRI was raised to 600 mcg a day for pregnant women.
Your unborn baby needs folic acid the most during the first month of pregnancy, when the neural tube is formed - but you might not realize you're pregnant during that critical time, even if you've been trying to have a baby. Also, some recent studies in the Netherlands suggest that women with high folic-acid levels have fewer miscarriages. It's vitally important for every woman to get enough folic acid. If you're a woman between the ages of 15 and 47, the time to start taking folic acid supplements is now.
First of all, you need folic acid to build muscles and to keep your body strong and in good condition. Folic acid is the most essential element in your body to replace the old body cells with the new ones. Without it, you can't make the new cells fast enough or well enough. Folic acid is especially important for cells that wear out and divide rapidly, such as red blood cells, skin cells, and the cells that line your small intestine.
Folic acid is one of the B-complex vitamins that works with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to breakdown the proteins and the formation of hemoglobin (a compound in red blood cells that is essential for transferring oxygen and carbon dioxide).
Another function of folic acid is creating coenzymes in the body appears to be mediating the transfer of one-carbon units. This makes it to be essential to all biochemical reactions that use a one-carbon transfer and is produced by bacteria in the stomach and intestines.
Vitamin B9 Folic Acid Health Benefits
Folic acid does some other amazing things for your health. In the past few years we've learned that folic acid prevents birth defects, helps prevent heart disease, and may even help prevent cancer. The evidence is so convincing that since 1998 many common grain products, including bread, breakfast cereal, pasta and rice, have been fortified with extra folic acid. However, there are still large amount of people being deficient in this vitamin.
Folate in food is nearly 50 percent less bioavailble than folic acid in fortified foods and supplements. In fact, folate is one of the few nutrients that is more beneficial in the man-made form than the natural form.