Folic Acid: Dosage, Sources, and Benefits

Folic Acid: Dosage, Sources, and Benefits

Folic acid is often associated with pregnancy, as it should be supplemented before and during this period. However, the importance of folic acid extends far beyond supporting the healthy development of a fetus. It should be consumed year-round, not only by women but by everyone.

Where Can You Find Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a vitamin found in food in the form of folates. Foods containing high amounts of folates include:

  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and asparagus;
  • Citrus fruits like bananas and oranges;
  • Other fruits, including apples and strawberries;
  • Liver, although excessive consumption is not recommended;
  • Turnips;
  • Yeast.

Folic acid is present not only in plant-based products but also in those of animal origin. However, it is safer to consume larger amounts of plant-derived folic acid, as animal products can lead to the accumulation of harmful metabolic byproducts. Although liver contains significant amounts of folic acid, it is better to replace it with wheat bran, which has a similar vitamin content.

When planning a diet, keep in mind that folates are sensitive to high temperatures, sunlight, and low pH levels. Cooking can cause the loss of up to 50-90% of folic acid in a given product. Fresh leafy vegetables stored at room temperature for three days can lose up to 70% of their initial folic acid content.

Folic Acid Dosage

Folic acid dosage should depend on the body's current needs. Due to its limited presence in daily diets, a dosage of about 400 micrograms per day in a single dose is recommended. This applies to pregnant women, those planning a pregnancy, women who do not plan on having children, and men. Folic acid is usually offered in tablet form, but since it is water-soluble, it should be consumed with plenty of fluids and ideally taken with vitamin C to accelerate absorption in the body.

Proper supplementation is crucial, as folic acid deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, cell division disorders, and a range of nervous system problems, including hyperactivity, difficulty falling asleep, fatigue, and issues with memory and concentration.

Folic Acid Before Pregnancy

Couples planning a pregnancy often start preparing months in advance. Women quit smoking, change their diets, and take supplements to strengthen their bodies. The period leading up to conception is also when specialists recommend beginning folic acid supplementation. Naturally occurring folic acid is highly sensitive to temperature and sunlight, so even consuming large amounts of food rich in this substance may not meet the daily requirement. Therefore, choosing a ready-made single or multi-ingredient supplement with the appropriate folic acid content is a better solution. These supplements should be taken three months before the planned pregnancy. Healthy women from families without a history of neural tube defects can use products containing 0.4 mg of folic acid. Those at risk should choose supplements with up to 4 mg of vitamin B9.

Folic Acid During Pregnancy

Folic acid intake during pregnancy is vital for the proper development of the fetus. It has been proven that vitamin B9 prevents up to 70% of neural tube developmental defects in the fetus. Other studies have shown that women with folic acid deficiency are at a higher risk of miscarriage and other birth defects in their children, such as cleft lip and palate, certain heart defects, and limb abnormalities. Folic acid is essential for gene formation and repair, as well as protein synthesis, so maintaining adequate levels protects the fetus during its earliest stages.

Folic acid should be taken before pregnancy, as most birth defects develop between the 16th and 28th day after fertilization, a time when women may not yet be aware of their pregnancy. For this reason, it is recommended that every sexually active woman of reproductive age, who may become pregnant, should proactively consume the recommended daily dose of folic acid, preferably through external supplementation.

Folic Acid for Men

Folic acid for men also supports pregnancy, specifically the development of the fetus. First, a deficiency of vitamin B9 in the father can also affect the fetus's health. Second, it impacts male fertility. Therefore, before planning a pregnancy, it is advisable for both partners to supplement with folic acid.

Folic Acid for Men's Health

The significance of folic acid during pregnancy is often discussed in the context of women, overlooking the importance of supplementation for men. However, vitamin B9 is equally crucial for male fertility. It significantly improves sperm quality by increasing the number of healthy, fertile sperm in the semen. A diet rich in folic acid for the future father also positively impacts the fetus's development, so both parents should consider supplementation several months before the planned conception.

The Role of Folic Acid

Vitamin B9 is not only essential during pregnancy and the period leading up to it; it also supports various processes within the body. Folic acid regulates cell growth and function, positively affects the nervous system and brain, and contributes to overall mental well-being. It prevents damage to the neural tube and has a positive impact on the weight and development of newborns. Additionally, it plays a role in preserving genetic material and passing on inherited traits. For these reasons, folic acid should be consumed not only by women but also by men, and not just during pregnancy planning.

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