You know that folic acid is good for you. But if you're like most people, you probably don't know the extent of benefits it can give to your health.
Folic acid, which is the synthetic version of B vitamin folate, is responsible for rapid cell growth particularly during pregnancy and infancy.
Folate is naturally found in
- citrus fruits
- leafy green vegetables
while folic acid can be found in
- vitamin supplements
- fortified foods including breakfast cereals.
Folate or folic acid is essential for the cells' building blocks called DNA and RNA. It can prevent cancer by inhibiting changes in the DNA as well as anemia by helping to generate the right amount of red blood cells. It also lowers risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease by maintaining the proper levels of amino acid homocysteine. But that's not all, recent studies have unraveled more benefits that you can get from this B vitamin. Here are some of those:
Prevent High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects more than 65 million Americans. Proper diet and lifestyle modification have always been known to be effective in reducing the risk of this disease. In a new study, it is revealed that women who daily take in at least 1,000 micrograms of folic acid through supplements or folate from diet had 46 percent lower risk of developing hypertension. According to researchers, this can be attributed to the fact that this B vitamin helped to relax the blood vessels while improving the blood flow. The result is proper levels of blood pressure.
Cut Down Stroke Deaths
Another recent discovery is folic acid's role in cutting down stroke deaths not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. A study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention examined the pattern of stroke deaths in the U.S., Canada, Wales and England from 1990 to 2002. In Canada and U.S., there was significant decline after folic acid fortification in food products became mandatory. However, this wasn't mandatory in England and Wales. There wasn't any decline in stroke deaths either. Although this is not a direct proof of the link between folic acid and lower stroke deaths, the evidence presented supported the theory. This can be due to the fact that folic acid regulated homocysteine in the blood, which is a known stroke risk factor.
Lower Risk of Hearing Loss
A Dutch study examined 728 Dutch men and women aged 50 to 70. All participants had high levels of homocysteine. That was not a surprise since folic acid fortification was not compulsory in the Netherlands. Half of the participants were asked to take about 800 micrograms folic acid supplements per day, which is twice the ordinary folic acid supplement. The other half got inactive placebo pills. Three years later, the half that took folic acid pills were found to have lower occurrences of hearing loss than the other half that took the placebos. The researchers suggested that fortification of food products with folic acid can minimize age-related hearing loss in their country.