First of all, before we go into the folic acid facts, let’s find out what folic acid is. Folic acid is one of your B vitamins – Vitamin B9 to be exact. Folic Acid is a water soluble vitamin as opposed to a fat soluble vitamin. That means that folic acid is not stored by your body.
Folic acid is oftentimes used interchangeably with the word folate (remember this when looking at some of the studies below). Folate is the form of this vitamin found in foods such as leafy green vegetables. Folate is also found in citrus fruits and legumes such as beans.
Folic Acid is the more stable form of Vitamin B9 than is folate. Folic acid is not found naturally in foods and is the form of the vitamin found in supplements. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated the enrichment of grain products such as bread, pasta, rice and breakfast cereal with folic acid to help reduce birth defects.
Folic Acid Facts and Cardiovascular Disease: The Benefits of Folic Acid in Guarding Against This Number One Killer
Some of the folic acid facts surrounding cardiovascular diseases may surprise you. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines cardiovascular diseases as including heart disease, stroke and diseases of the blood vessels in your extremities.
The CDC reports that heart disease and stroke account for the number one and number three cause of death in America. The CDC estimates that every year, 950,000 Americans die of cardiovascular disease. They also estimate that as many as 61 million (or one quarter) of all Americans have some sort of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of early, permanent disability among adults of working age. Stroke alone is responsible for the disability of over 1 million Americans.
So, tell me some folic acid facts that will help me reduce my chances of cardiovascular disease
Much research has shown that the benefits of folic acid along with Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) can significantly reduce your body’s level of homocysteine.
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by your body, usually as a result of your eating meat. Normally homocysteine is converted to methionine which is required by your body for the building of proteins and other vital chemical processes. However, your body needs the benefits of folic acid along with Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 to accomplish this.
One of your important folic acid facts is that without an adequate supply of folic acid, homocysteine levels build up in your body. And this is when the problems begin to occur. Elevated homocysteine levels have been directly linked to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease.
It seems that higher levels of homocysteine in our bodies is responsible for an increase in the narrowing and hardening of our arteries. This of course results in a decrease in and perhaps eventually the lack of blood flow, and therefore oxygen to our vital organs. Lack of blood flow to parts of your heart result in heart attack and lack of blood flow to parts of your brain result in strokes.
A study appearing in the ARCHIVES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE titled “Hyperhomocysteinemia and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease” tells us that “hyperhomocysteinemia has recently been identified as an important risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease.” Further “treatment is most conveniently administered as a folic acid supplement (400-1000 µg) and a high-potency multivitamin that contains at least 400 µg of folate.”
Another study appearing in the same journal titled “Homocysteine and Ischemic Heart Disease” states that “the epidemiological, genetic, and animal evidence together indicate that the association between serum homocysteine level and IHD (ischemic heart disease) is likely to be causal. A general increase in consumption of the vitamin folic acid (which reduces serum homocysteine levels) would, therefore, be expected to reduce mortality from IHD.” Ischemic means “a decrease in the blood supply to a bodily organ, tissue, or part caused by constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels.”
From the American Heart Association’s website called CIRCULATION, we read “users of multivitamin supplements in observational studies have lower homocysteine levels than nonusers, as well as higher concentrations of plasma folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.” It goes on further to state “users of multivitamins have been reported to have a reduced prevalence of CAD (coronary artery disease) compared with nonusers.”
Folic Acid Facts and Dementia / Depression: The Benefits of Folic Acid in Keeping Your Brain Young
Another of our folic acid facts speaks to the relationship between low intakes of folic acid and dementia in our later years. The HOUGHTON MIFFLIN Medical Dictionary defines dementia as “deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain, and often accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes.”
One of the benefits of folic acid is that it is believed to be a factor in reducing the incidence of dementia or cognitive decline as we get older. Why is this? Again we go back to one of the folic acid facts above and look at that word homocysteine.
Researchers have determined what they feel are causal (causing) links between elevated homocysteine levels and brain dysfunction in our golden years. As we learned earlier on this page, one of the benefits of folic acid is that it has been shown to significantly reduce our levels of homocysteine (remember one of our folic acid facts above and how folic acid is required to turn homocysteine into methionine – methionine is required for the building of proteins).
A study appearing in the NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE titled “Folate, vitamin B12, and neuropsychiatric disorders” states that “folate and vitamin B12 are required both in the methylation of homocysteine to methionine and in the synthesis of S-adenosylmethionine.” It further tells us that “both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency may cause similar neurologic and psychiatric disturbances including depression, dementia, and a demyelinating myelopathy” and also “the neurotoxic effects of homocysteine may also play a role in the neurologic and psychiatric disturbances that are associated with folate and vitamin B12 deficiency.”
Another study appearing in the JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY, NEUROSURGERY AND PSYCHIATRY titled “Homocysteine, folate, methylation, and monoamine metabolism in depression” tells us that “although folate deficiency is often the result of depression due to poor diet, there is evidence from controlled studies that whether the deficiency is secondary or primary, folate replacement will enhance recovery of the mental state, probably by a mechanism linking methylation in the nervous system to mood.”