Showing posts with label folic acid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label folic acid. Show all posts

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What You Should Know about Folate and Folic Acid

Should you supplement with B-12 (folate)? What are the risks?

It has many names – folate, folic acid, vitamin B-9 and vitamin B-12. No matter what you call it, it adds up to one thing: Folate is a holistic benefactor of bodily health function. But is it safe to boost your B12/folate intake with supplements? Are there dietary ways to boost folate naturally? Let's investigate.

Folate/B-12 health benefits

The health benefits of folate are many, including fighting obesity, treating depression, improving brain function, preventing colon cancer and other forms of cancer, fighting heart disease and strokes, warding off dementia, processing amino acids, and repairing and maintaining cells, including red blood cells.

Folate is also important in fetal development, with some research showing that inadequate B-12/folate can hamper proper spinal cord development, resulting in brain damage or paralysis.
And though not all the research agrees, many people swear by folate/B-12 as a hangover cure.

How much B-12/folate do I need to take?

The amount of folate you need varies, depending on your age, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their guidelines:
  • Birth to 6 months: 65 mcg
  • Infants 7–12 months: 80 mcg
  • Children 1–3 years: 150 mcg
  • Children 4–8 years: 200 mcg
  • Children 9–13 years: 300 mcg
  • Teens and adults: 400 mcg
As well, pregnant teens and women should consider 600 mcg daily, and breast-feeding teens and women should consume 500 mcg daily.

B-12 studies: folate research

With so many claims of folate health benefits, you may be asking, "says who?" Fortunately, folate and folic acid (the most common folate supplementation form) have been studied rigorously, offering insight into these claims.
While most research related to natural forms of folate (see the list below) confirm the health benefits, the results are not all positive for folic acid.
On the thumbs-up side:
  • A 2006 study found that the rate of stroke deaths fell dramatically during the first four years of cereal/grain fortification.
  • Several studies have shown that folate slows brain aging.
  • A 20-year US/China collaborative folic acid study determined that the newborns of women who took the daily recommended amount of folic acid during pregnancy experienced an 85% drop in the risk of neural tube defects while not increasing the risk of miscarriage or multiple births.
  • This study concluded that folic acid fortification in food products can significantly decrease the prevalence of spina bifida and anencephaly.
  • This 2013 study showed that folic acid given to mother rats protected their offspring from Colon cancer.
  • A CDC study concluded that mothers with preexisting diabetes who did not supplement with folic acid had an increased risk for birth defects.
On the thumbs-down side:
  • This study showed that, in abnormally high doses, folic acid supplements promoted the growth of existing pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in the mammary glands of rats.
  • A randomized control trial conclude that that daily supplementation with 1 mg of folic acid can increase prostate cancer risk.
  • Another study showed that older adults who consume more than 400 micrograms of folic acid per day accelerate the rate of cognitive decline.
  • This 2013 research showed that folic acid deficiency can be detrimental to the health of  your great-great-grandchildren.

B-12, folic acid risks

At least in its natural form, there are very few side effects or risks associated with folate, even in high dosage. That said, extremely high doses (more than 15,000 mcg) can negatively affect your sleep, cause stomach troubles, skin reactions, and possibly seizures.
However, there are a few risks associated with too much folic acid – the supplemental form of folate:
  • High doses of folic acid can mask the symptoms of anemia – a serious B-12 deficiency.
  • Some research suggests that high doses of folic acid can increase colorectal cancer risks.
  • Drug interaction risks with folic acid include methotrexate (when taken to treat cancer) and certain anti-epileptic medications. As well,  taking sulfasalazine (used for ulcerative colitis) can dampen the body's ability to absorb folate, thereby depleting your folate levels.

how to get B-12 folate into your diet

Generally, natural sources of vitamins are more bio-available (usable in your body) than synthetic sources. And fortunately, there are many natural ways to increase the amount of folate in your diet.
Folate is a word that comes from the same root as foliage – no accident there, as many greens are excellent sources of folate. But there are several more.
According to the USDA, you can get 100 micrograms of naturally occurring folate by consuming any of the following foods:
  • A cup of cooked Brussels sprouts
  • One cup of cooked collard greens or mustard greens
  • A cup of cooked broccoli
  • Five spears of asparagus
  • A half cup of cooked spinach
  • A full cup of cooked artichokes
  • A 1 cup can of sweet corn
  • Eight ounces of orange juice
  • A half cup of dry roasted peanuts
  • A half cup of cooked dried beans
  • A mere quarter cup of lentils
  • A half cup of sunflower seeds.

Though not as abundantly, you can also increase your folate intake by consuming yeast, cereals, mushrooms, eggs, poultry, liver, dairy products, and from some fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and oranges.
To boost your folate intake more, consider minimal or unprocessed consumption of the fruits and vegetables noted above. For example:
  • One cup of cooked garbanzo beans provides over 275 micrograms of folate, while canned garbanzo beans provide just 75 micrograms.
  • A cup of freshly cooked asparagus has more than 265 micrograms of folate, but a cup of canned asparagus only has about 170 micrograms.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, January 14, 2013

National Birth Defect Prevention Month

One in every thirty-three babies born in the United States is affected by a birth defect. According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), this staggering statistic is the leading cause of infant mortality in the country. As alarming as this information may be, the NBDPN dedicates the entire month of January to building awareness for the prevention of birth defects.  

folic acid
Protect your baby before and after birth by being
aware of the risk of developing birth defects.
This January’s National Birth Defect Prevention Month theme is: “Birth defects are common, costly, and critical.” The NBDPN is focusing on medication use and pregnancy, two elements that factor greatly into the risk of developing birth defects. Two-thirds of women take one or more medications during pregnancy. Proper healthcare before and during pregnancy is essential to preventing birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
There are various types of birth defects and numerous categories that they fall under. The major categories include: the 
  • Central nervous system 
  • Eyes 
  • Cardiovascular 
  • Orofacial 
  • Gastrointestinal 
  • Musculoskeletal 
  • Chromosomal anomalies 
The four most common birth defects in the US are congenital heart defects, cleft lip and/or palate, Down syndrome, and Spina bifida. Congenital heart defects affect one in 100 babies, and are an abnormality in any part of the heart that is present at birth. 

Cleft lip and/palate is a birth defect in which the baby's upper lip and/or palate does not form completely and has an opening in it, afflicting one in 700 babies. Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that includes a combination of birth defects. Those affected have some degree of intellectual disability, characteristic facial features and, often, heart defects, as well as other health problems. The severity of these problems varies greatly among the one in 800 affected each year. And lastly, Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the lower back and, sometimes, the spinal cord of one baby in every 2,500 born.There are three types of Spina bifida, which from the least to most severe form include Occulta, Meningocele, Myelomeningocele.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is currently too difficult to pinpoint what causes each specific birth defect. However, there are many risk factors that can be controlled and therefore, can lower your chances of having a child with a birth defect. They list  risk factors associated with birth defects as smoking before and during a pregnancy, obesity, poor control of diabetes and taking certain medication during pregnancy

In addition, the CDC recommends these 10 steps to help reduce the risk of birth defects: 

1. Take 400 micro-grams of Folic Acid every day

Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman consumes enough folic acid at least one month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Talk to your doctor before taking folic acid or any over the counter vitamins or medications.
2.     Don't drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy
When a woman drinks alcohol, unfortunately so does her unborn baby. Alcohol in the woman’s blood passes through the placenta to her baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with a fetal alcohol syndrome.
3.     Don’t smoke
Smoking before or during pregnancy can
cause birth defects.
Smoking during pregnancy exposes babies to harmful chemicals that inevitably cause birth defects. Even being around cigarette smoke puts a woman and her unborn baby at risk for complications. Quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best.
4. Do not use “street” drugs
       A woman who uses illegal—or “street”—drugs during pregnancy can have a baby who is born with birth defects. It also is important that a woman not use "street" drugs after she gives birth, because such drugs can be passed through breast milk to her baby and can affect the baby’s growth and development.
5. Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications
     Taking certain medications during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects, but the safety of many medications taken by pregnant women has been difficult to determine. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should not stop taking medications you need or begin taking new medications without first talking with your doctor. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal products. 

6. Prevent infections
         Some infections that a woman can get during pregnancy can be harmful to the unborn baby. Learn how to help prevent infections. 

7. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations
          Many vaccinations are safe and recommended during pregnancy, but some are not. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. 

8. Keep diabetes under control
          Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances for birth defects and other problems for the baby. It can also cause serious complications for the woman. Proper healthcare before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects and other poor outcomes. 

9. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
          A woman who is obese before pregnancy is at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy. Obesity in the woman also increases the risk of several serious birth defects for the baby. If you are overweight or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight before you get pregnant. 

10. See a health care professional regularly

A woman should be sure to see her doctor when planning a pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as she thinks that she is pregnant. It is important to see the doctor regularly throughout pregnancy, so a woman should keep all her prenatal care appointments. 

As American icon G.I. Joe would say, “…knowing is half the battle,” and although January may raise your knowledge of the prevention of birth defects, information can only get you so far. It still may be difficult to obtain the prenatal vitamins and medications you need to sustain a healthy pregnancy

However, FamilyWize is here to help. Partnered with over 61,000 participating pharmacies across the United States, the free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card provides you with discounts and savings on your prenatal vitamins and medications. Based on your doctor’s recommendations and the prescriptions you are given, visit the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool to see the discounts FamilyWize may offer.

Derek Slichter
Contributing Writer