Should you supplement with B-12 (folate)? What are the risks?
Folate/B-12 health benefits
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?
- 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
B-12 studies: folate research
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
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
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.
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.