Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is a water soluble form of the vitamin, extremely important in regard to many functions both in children and adults.
This vitamin is responsible for vital metabolic reactions, namely formation of new cells in the body and particularly new red blood cells in the bone marrow. Folic acid is crucial for the health of the nerve tissue and the biochemistry of the proteins we take with food. It helps the cells to divide. This acid is necessary for the formation of placenta and the development of the bone marrow in the embryo.
Vitamin B9 is a catalyst of the conversion of the amino acid cysteine in methionine, thereby reducing the levels of the first amino acid in blood, which is of particular importance for the good condition of placenta and timely reduces the risk of premature birth.
Folic acid is also essential for absorption of other vitamins from the group B, as it provides energy for the organism and helps it fight fatigue more easily.
Human organism cannot produce folic acid, so we should take it in enough amounts with the food, which means the organism has to make sure of vitamin’s intake every day.
Entering the organism, the folic acid reaches the liver and the blood plasma. It binds iron in the red blood cells and contributes to the formation of hemoglobin (the red blood pigment, carrier of oxygen). The liver stores of vitamin B9 are enough to cover the organism’s needs for three months in case the acid intake is completely ceased or there are no increased needs of it.
Actually, providing folic acid is not at all difficult: from vegetables – these are all leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, parsley, spinach), broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, tomatoes, turnip, barley, sprouts, lentil, rice, wheat germ, oats, wholegrain products, chickpeas;
from animal products – liver, lamb and beef, soft cheese, eggs.
The fruits with the highest content of folic acid are: avocado, papaya, oranges and strawberries.
According to the American National Health Service the recommended daily dose of vitamin B9 is 100mcg, and for pregnant women the needs increase significantly – 400 mcg. Many researches show that women, who had taken folic acid one month before conceiving and then during the first trimester of their pregnancy, reduce the risk of congenital malformations of the neural tube of their babies with up to 70%. According to statistical data, however, over 50% of the pregnancies are not planned and thus, not by chance, a regular intake of folic acid by all women in childbirth age is recommended. It should be mentioned that folic acid is the only food supplement for which the needs of the pregnant woman are increased to such an extent. There is no risk of overdosing, because even in relatively high doses folic acid remains non-toxic and doesn’t cause allergic reaction in the body.
The role of folates – derivative compounds of folic acid – in the process of DNA and RNA synthesis and the catalyzation of cell division is crucial. The deficit of these compounds causes disturbances in the processes of cell division and is manifested most strongly in the regenerating tissues. The deficiency of vitamin B9 together with B12 leads to impairments in the formation of myelin sheaths of peripheral nerves and degenerative changes in the spinal cord. On the other hand, impairment of the red blood cells formation is also observed, leading to anemia especially in people with poor regime of nutrition.
The active role of folates in the metabolism of the amino acid methionine is essential. Their deficiency leads to accumulation of a product called homocysteine which causes atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels, thus increasing strongly the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Researches show the shortage of folic acid significantly increases the risk of cancer diseases, which is linked with inefficient DNA synthesis and mutations in the cellular structure.
There is no doubt that folic acid deficiency is the most actual problem in the first two months of woman’s pregnancy. There is a real thread of having a child with significant malformations and it can be born prematurely with retardation in the mental development.
Breakfast cereals and particularly the wholegrain ones are one of the most widely spread foods among people following a healthy lifestyle and this is not accidental. In 2005, a study was held in Great Britain, which investigated the amount of essential food ingredients (nutrients) that people receive with cereals at breakfast, compared to those who don’t consume such food. 3728 people over the age of 2 participated in the study. It was found that cereals are eaten by around 80% of the children and 50-60% of the adults in UK. The consumers of cereals showed higher intake of numerous vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron and zinc. Moreover, the breakfast cereals lead to increased intake of calcium due to their combined consumption with fresh milk. To the useful effect is added the fact that most of the breakfast cereals are enriched with vitamin D, zinc and folic acid. Furthermore, wholegrain foods are also a source of fibers which possess invaluable beneficial effect on the digestive tract.It seems that the consumers of breakfast cereals take vitamin B6, zinc, calcium, riboflavin in amounts sufficient to meet the daily needs. Thus, not only the presence of breakfast is important, but also its quality. Wholegrain breakfasts except for being an easy and balanced start of the day, are also a source of essential nutrients, including folic acid. Add milk, fresh orange juice or several strawberries and begin your day with conscious care for your body and full with energy throughout the day.