What is it?
Folic acid is the man-made version of the vitamin folate – also known as vitamin B9 – and cannot be stored in the body. It is found in certain foods (green leafy vegetables, wholegrains) but is recommended to take in supplement form as research shows that women do not get enough folic acid from diet alone.
How much do I need?
According to the HSE, we need 0.4mg of folate per day or, if pregnant, up to 0.8mg per day.
What does it do?
1. Aids in the production of healthy red blood cells, helping to reduce headaches and fatigue
Folic acid helps the body create healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Without sufficient oxygen, you can develop temporary anaemia and suffer from headaches, fatigue, light-headedness and shortness of breath.
Taking the recommended amount of folic acid can ensure you have enough red blood cells and keep you feeling clear, energised and healthy.
2. Treats folate deficiency
Folate deficiency can occur as a result of a variety of causes, including:
- Inadequate dietary intake
- Malabsorptive diseases
Folate deficiency can result in serious side effects, including:
- Megaloblastic anaemia
- Birth defects
- Mental impairment
- Impaired immune function
3. Helps with prevention of birth defects and complications in pregnancy
Folate – folic acid - is an essential vitamin for all women wishing to conceive, as it is extremely important for unborn babies. It helps the baby’s nervous system to develop and can prevent neural tube defects like Spina Bifida and anencephaly – when a baby is born without parts of its brain or skull.
Folic acid supplements may also help prevent pregnancy-related complications, including preeclampsia. It is recommended to take a folic acid supplement even if you are not planning on getting pregnant.
4. Promotes brain health
Research has shown that low blood folate levels are associated with poor brain function, as well as an increased risk of dementia. Normal and low folate levels are associated with an increased risk of mental impairment in older adults.
5. Additional treatment of mental health disorders
People who suffer with depression have been shown to have lower folate levels in their blood than those without depression.
As a result, studies show that folic acid supplements may reduce symptoms of depression when used in conjunction with antidepressant medication.
6. Reduction of heart disease risk factors
Taking a folic acid supplement may improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease – helping to reduce high blood pressure and improve blood flow, both of which may help improve cardiovascular function.
Who can/can’t take folic acid?
Most adults and children can take folic acid, however it is not suitable for everyone.
To ensure it is safe for you to take a folic acid, consult with your doctor if you:
- Have had an allergic reaction to folic acid or any other medicine in the past
- Have low vitamin B12 levels (known as vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia) or pernicious anaemia
- Have cancer
- Are having a type of kidney dialysis called haemodialysis
- Have a stent in your heart
Pop in to your local CarePlus Pharmacy and ask about the folic acid supplement that is best for you.
Information sources: Mayo Clinic, HSE, MDPI, NHS, Healthline