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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Folate

Why do we need folate?

Folate, also known as folic acid, is considered a "brain food." It is especially important in pregnancy because it helps to regulate embryonic and fetal nerve cell formation, which is vital to normal development.

Folic acid is also needed for energy production and the formation of red blood cells, and it strengthens immunity by helping in proper formation and functioning of white blood cells.

What are some good sources of folate?

Citrus fruits and juices, asparagus, brussel sprouts, spinach, baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils contain folic acid. Flour, rice, pasta and cornmeal can also be important sources because they are often fortified with folic acid. Other good sources include brewer's yeast, barley, brown rice, cheese, chicken, dates, whole grains and certain seafood (salmon, tuna).

What can happen if we don't get enough folate?

A common sign of folic acid deficiency is a sore, red tongue. Anemia, fatigue, graying hair, growth impairment, and weakness are also common signs. Numerous studies have also shown that women who get adequate daily folic acid (during their childbearing years, not just while pregnant) can help minimize the risk of birth defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly.

References

  • Milunsky A, Jick H, Jick SS, et al. Multivitamin/folic acid supplementation in early pregnancy reduces the prevalence of neural tube defects. Journal of the American Medical Association 1989:262, pp2847-52.
  • Czeizel AE, Dudas I. Prevention of the first occurrence of neural-tube defects by periconceptional vitamin supplementation. New England Journal of Medicine 1992:327, pp1832-35.
  • Bailey LB, Gregory JF. Folate metabolism and requirements. Journal of Nutrition 1999:129, pp779-82.
  • Prevention of neural tube defects with folic acid in China. New England Journal of Medicine 1999:341(20), pp1485-90.
  • Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Institute of Medicine (1998). In: Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic acid, Biotin, and Choline, pp. 8-1 to 8-68. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

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