Folic Acid Essay, Research Paper
Folic acid is the most common term for water-soluble B-vitamin that can be found naturally as well as in vitamin pills. Found naturally, folic acid is actually referred to as folate, while folic acid refers to the synthetic form of the vitamin. (For reasons of simplification, this paper will use the two terms interchangeably.)
The functions of folic acid in our diet are mostly for prevention. Probably the most commonly known function of folic acid is in the prevention of neural tube diseases. Research has shown that the increased intake of folic acid can decrease the risk for such birth defects as spina bifida, which affects the fetus s brain and spine. With an increased intake of folic acid by the mother, it is estimated the 70% of some types of serious birth defects can be prevented.
The recommended daily allowance of folic acid is .4 mg per day. Anyone who follows the recommended daily food pyramid that includes 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit and 6-11 servings of grains daily will easily get the .4 to .5 mg of folic acid and would be within safe limits. The US Public Health service strongly suggests that all women thinking of becoming pregnant or who are pregnant should either follow this regimen or supplement their diet with vitamin pills.
As indicated above, folic acid can be found naturally in many common foods. Dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, as well as asparagus, some nuts and seeds, dried beans, wheat germ, yeast, egg yolk, most berries, and some other fruits and fruit juices are all natural sources of folic acid.
Other than neural tube defects, it has been discovered that a folate deficiency can, in part, contribute to the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome. Other ailments associated with folate deficiencies include an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer s disease. Research also suggests that low folate levels are linked to an increased risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases as well strokes. It is also speculated that women that have increased intakes of folic acid have decreased their risk for developing colon cancer by as high as 75 %. In light of these findings, scientific support of folic acid is divided.
While it is essential for functioning of the human body especially in periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy, and fetal development as well as the prevention of many ailments there is concern for how much is too much. The effects of a high-intake of folates are not well known due to the difficultly in tracking average intakes of folic acid (since it is found naturally in so many common foods). Studies have been done concerning vitamins pills primarily. It is hard for recommendations to be made due to this; however, the FDA suggests that total folate consumption should not exceed 1 mg per day unless otherwise directed by a physician. While there are others, the main drawback with folic acid is that a high intake level complicates the diagnosis of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
While it is obvious that folic acid is essential for some populations – mainly women of childbearing age – some scientists are wary in approving it for the entire population due to the above mention complications. Despite this information, starting January 1, 1998, the FDA ordered that breads and cereal grains such as wheat, rice and corn would be enriched with folic acid at the rate of .14 mg per 100 grams. This change was largely due to the research indicating that prior to this; only about 25% of childbearing women were regularly consuming enough folic acid.
In conclusion, it is obvious that folic acid is a positive addition to our daily diets. Like anything, however folic acid is most beneficial in moderation.