Chapter: Nutrition and Diet Therapy: Vitamins

Folate

Folate, folacin, and folic acid are chemically similar compounds. Their namesare often used interchangeably.

Folate

 

Folate, folacin, and folic acid are chemically similar compounds. Their namesare often used interchangeably.

 

Functions.Folate is needed for DNA synthesis, protein metabolism, andthe formation of hemoglobin. Researchers have concluded that folic acid helps to prevent colon, cervical, esophageal, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. Folic acid also increases homocystein levels that help prevent strokes, blood vessel disease, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Sources.Folate is found in many foods, but the best sources are cerealsfortified with folate, green leafy vegetables, legumes, sunflower seeds, and fruits such as orange juice and strawberries. Heat, oxidation, and ultraviolet light all destroy folate, and it is estimated that 50% to 90% of folate may be destroyed during food processing and preparation. Consequently, it is advisable that fruits and vegetables be eaten uncooked or lightly cooked whenever possible.

 

Requirements.Folate is measured in micrograms. The average dailyrequirement for the adult female is 400 g, and for the adult male it is also 400μg. There is an increased need for folate during pregnancy and periods of growth because of the increased rate of cell division and the DNA synthe-sis in the body of the mother and of the fetus. Consequently, it is extremely important that women of childbearing age maintain good folate intake. The recommended amount for a woman 1 month before conception and through the first 6 weeks of pregnancy is 600μg a day.

 

Deficiency.Folate deficiency has been linked toneural tube defects(NTDs) in the fetus, such as spina bifida (spinal cord or spinal fluid bulgethrough the back) and anencephaly (absence of a brain). Other signs of deficiency are inflammation of the mouth and tongue, poor growth, depression and mental confusion, problems with nerve functions, and megaloblasticanemia. Megaloblastic anemia is a condition wherein red blood cells are largeand immature and cannot carry oxygen properly.

 

Hypervitaminosis.The FDA limits the amount of folate in over-the-counter(OTC) supplements to 100μg for infants, 300μg for children, and 400μg for adults because consuming excessive amounts of folate can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency and inactivate phenytoin, an anticonvulsant drug used by epileptics.


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