Folic acid: What it is and its effects on the body

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In this article we will highlight what folic acid is, what is its function in the body and the correct way to use it.

Among the vitamins with the greatest variety that we find in the body are those of the B group. Thanks to them, a large number of processes necessary for the body are carried out. One of these vital components is folic acid

Ácido fólico
Folic acid

what is folic acid?

  • IUPAC designation: (2S)-2-[(4-{[(2-amino-4-hydroxypteridin-6-yl)methyl]amino}phenyl)formamido]pentanedioic acid
  • Formula: C19H19N7O6
  • Molar mass: 441.14 g/mol
  • Melting point: 523 K (250 °C)
  • Other names: N-(4-, benzoyl)-L-glutamic acid; pteroyl-L-glutamic acid; vitamin B9; vitamin M; Folacin
  • Acidity: 1st: 2.3, 2nd: 8.3 pKa
  • Solubility in water: 0.0016 mg/ml (25 °C)

One of the vitamins that is part of the B group is folic acid, identified with the number 9. Its importance is vital because with it new cells can be formed. It is also called folacin or folate. It dissolves in water and its chemical formula is C19H19N7O6.

Folic acid can be found in different foods, such as green leafy vegetables and nuts. It is also available in foods fortified with this vitamin

By 1931, thanks to the research of Lucy Wills, a scientist of the time, the importance of folic acid in pregnancy was determined

Around 1940, several researchers noted that this component was present in brewer’s yeast. By 2018, more than 60 countries require many foods to have this element.

Use of folic acid

Alfredo Carpintero Angulo, CEO and founder of Farmacia Angulo, explains on his website that for several decades the intake of folic acid has been associated with pregnancy. And although it is true that during this stage its consumption is very important, it is not the only reason why it should be used

In fact, its use is indicated for both men and women. This is pointed out by the National Library of Medicine of the United States.

Likewise, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine highlights the dosage to be ingested

  • Adults. The minimum amount to be consumed is 400 mcg/day in adults over 14 years old. In the case of pregnant women, the dose should be increased to 600 mcg/day.
  • Newborns. Between 65 and 80 mcg/day.
  • From 1 to 8 years old. Maximum 200 mcg per day.
  • From 9 to 13 years old. Maximum 300 mcg per day.

Health benefits of folic acid

Folic acid is necessary for life. Here are some of the benefits of adequate folic acid intake.

Protects the baby during pregnancy

Although it is highly required during pregnancy, it is necessary for women to consume folic acid at all times. The intake of this vitamin greatly benefits the baby’s development. Here are some of its advantages:

  • Placenta. This vitamin protects the formation of the placenta. If there is no folic acid, it can be deformed.
  • Brain. It prevents anencephaly, a condition that causes a malformation of the brain or skull.
  • Spine. Spina bifida is largely caused by a lack of folic acid in the body.
  • Other advantages. By consuming folic acid, the infant will not be at risk of anemia, underweight or premature birth.

The Revista Médica de Chile presented the results of a study on the importance of folic acid in today’s medicine. It indicated that, given the good results obtained so far, it is necessary to consume this vitamin every day

She also asked to promote these results so that all people understand how vital its use is.

Take care of the cardiovascular system

The appearance of diseases in the cardiovascular system is associated with homocysteine. The higher the amount of homocysteine in the body, the higher the risk of heart disease. That is why experts recommend an adequate intake of folic acid

This vitamin helps regulate the amount of homocysteine. It does this by combining with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

Benefits still under investigation

In the case of depression and cancer, it has been proven that folic acid is able to prevent or diminish the effects of these diseases. However, scientists accept that only a few tests have been done and, in order to be sure, it is better to wait for the results of more studies.

Risks and contraindications of folic acid

When ingested in less than recommended amounts, there can be serious effects on the body. Among the most frequent, the U.S. National Library of Medicine mentions these.

  • Stomach ailments. Diarrhea is the most common, although there may also be other associated ailments.
  • Oral conditions. Some people have glossitis, a swelling of the tongue. Ulcers may also occur.
  • Affected development. Mostly occurs when folic acid intake is not taken from infancy. Physical and mental development is incomplete.
  • Anemia. Because the symptoms are similar, anemia and folic acid deficiency were thought to be the same in the 1930s. It only causes some types of this disease.

Likewise, it is possible that by ingesting folic acid, some side effects may appear. Although, as the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Health Products points out, this rarely happens.

  • Skin reactions. Some people experience symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Stomach conditions. There may be nausea, flatulence, diarrhea and even altered taste.
  • Mental conditions. Among the most common are insomnia, behavioral disturbance, and confusion.

This vitamin can be obtained naturally in food. It is the only approved way for all people. There are also supplements and medications that have it, but in this case there are some people who should not consume them.

  • Allergy sufferers. Anyone allergic to vitamin B9 should avoid taking it completely.
  • B12 anemia. If the anemia is due to vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid should not be taken.
  • Addisonian anemia. If you suffer from this type of anemia, the intake of folic acid should be completely avoided

Folic acid should be part of our whole life. It helps our organism in a great way. In the right amounts it produces many benefits.

German Fuertes Otero
German Fuertes Otero
CEO at M.D. from Stanford Medicine: Stanford, California, US, M.Sc. from University of Cambridge: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK and University of Oxford: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. PhD at Harvard University Harvard Catalyst: Cambridge, MA, US.

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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