Folate (folic acid) is a B-complex vitamin that is key to the complete development of red blood cells, which help carry oxygen around the body. Folate also helps maintain healthy blood circulation throughout the body, and preventing a buildup of homocysteine, associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and can lead to the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells, and may contribute to the development of Parksinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and dementias. Folate is also key to brain and spinal column development in the fetus, and reduces the risk of nervous system problem in newborns.
Symptoms of Folate deficiency include irritability, confusion, forgetfulness, depression, incomnia, mental and muscle fatigue, non-senile dementia, restless leg syndrome, and nervous system problems in the hands and feet.
It's important to maintain a full compliment of B vitamins, as deficient intake of B's can contribute to folate deficiency. B1, B2 and B3 enable folic acid to undergo metabolic recycling in the body. Poor protein intake can also cause folate deficiency, as can excessive alcohol intake, smoking and heavy coffee drinking. Some anti-cancer drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs,
diabetes treatments, oral contraceptives, diuretics and antibiotics can also deplete folate from the system.
Folate may play a role in the prevention and/or treatment of the following health conditions:
- Anemias (especially macrocytic anemia)
- Cervical dysplasia
- Cervical tumors
- Cleft palate or cleft lip
- Crohn's disease
- Glycogen storage disease type I
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Neural tube defects
- Non-senile dementia
- Ovarian tumors
- Periodontal disease
- Restless leg syndrome
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Tropical sprue
- Uterine tumors
Folate is best found in dark, green leafy vegetables, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lentils and calf's liver. It is also found in squash, black beans, pinto eans, garbanzo beans, papaya and string beans. If you're a 'diet' follower, the Mediterranean Diet is high in folate.
Or you can purchase folate in supplement form at your local health food retailer.