This is another one of the water-soluble vitamins, member of the B complex. It is essential for normal growth, as it is required in DNA and RNA metabolism for protein synthesis in the body, but also together with vitamins B12 and C in the use of vitamins by the body. Needed also for blood formation, genetic code transmission, reduction of neural tube defects including spina bifida and anencephaly in the fetus, and resistance to infection in the newborn.
Food sources of folic acid or folate are dried brewer's yeast, soya flour, wheat bran and wheatgerm, nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, citrus fruits and eggs.
- Cervical dysplasia
- Control of habitual abortion and premature births caused by folate deficiency
- Malabsorption diseases like tropical sprue, gluten enteropathy, etc
- Megaloblastic or pernicious anemia
- Mental deterioration and psychosis
- Reduction of homecysteine in the blood and analogous reduction of cardiovascular disease risks
- Fatigue and weakness
- Irritability and sleeplessness
- Memory loss and mental confusion
Folic acid is safe enough to be a must for pregnant women, in order to prevent anomalies in the developing fetus. Excessive amounts may cause abdominal distention, loss of appetite and flatulence, nausea and sleep disturbances. Even more important, high dosages may mask a deficiency of vitamin B12, and also deplete the mineral zinc by increasing its excretion; an alarming consequence considering the importance of zinc. This effect could be avoided by increasing the amount of zinc in the diet, or by taking zinc supplements. A folate deficiency may occur with alcoholism, contraceptive pills, a variety of drugs, old age, and pregnancy. Persons suffering from epilepsy and schizophrenia must consult their specialists before taking folic acid supplements.