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
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
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
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.