Folic acid and folate are both B vitamins. Folate occurs naturally in certain foods that we eat. Most common foods that are high in folate include dark, leafy greens, meats such as liver and kidney, mushrooms and dried beans.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is used to treat low blood levels of folate. Many foods such as pastas, cereals, breads and flours are enriched with folic acid to prevent a deficiency.
Although a full blown folic acid deficiency is not common, it is seen more often than one would think. Low folate levels have been linked to depression, anemia, seizures, developmental delays in small children and behavioral and psychiatric symptoms in adults.
While diet can be to blame for low folate levels, it can also be caused by a variety of factors such as a chronic illness, the body’s ability to absorb supplements, as well as other prescribed medications that may interfere with the absorption of folic acid. It has even been thought that chronic stress can lead to vitamin deficiency, including folate deficiency.
Folate or folic acid is used in the body to help build and maintain new cells. Folic acid helps to make and repair DNA in the body. The red blood cell development in the body relies on the folate levels. People who suffer from anemia often have low folate levels or a folate deficiency, and can benefit from supplementing with folic acid as part of a regimen. Studies have also shown that folic acid may decrease the risks of developing high blood pressure, particularly in women.
Folic acid has many health benefits when taken at a safe dose. Always consult with your primary care physician before starting any new treatment regimens. There can be side effects when taking a high dose of folic acid over a long period of time. Folic acid should be used with caution for people who are deficient in vitamin B12, people who have epileptic seizures, or who have had procedures to widen arteries (Angioplasty). Speak with your primary care physician to determine if a folic acid regimen is the right choice for you.