Folic acid: How to choose the best for you in 2021
Today we are going to talk about an important vitamin for your health: folic acid.
An integral part of the B complex, folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is essential for various functions to occur in the body, in addition to being fundamental in pregnancy.
Amid so many options of supplements, we will show in this article what you should take into account before buying the ideal folic acid.
First, the most important
- Folic acid is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the organism as it protects the heart, prevents neuropsychological diseases and acts in the formation of the fetal neural tube, among others.
- Folic acid supplementation should always be done under medical guidance in cases of deficiency, anemia and during pregnancy.
- We will show you what are the characteristics that differentiate one folic acid supplement from another and how to choose the best one.
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It may seem simple to choose the best folic acid. But the fact is that this is a supplement that, despite its benefits, should be taken with caution and preferably with the guidance of a doctor.
Therefore, we have created this Buying Guide with all the information you need to know to make the best decision when purchasing your folic acid supplement.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a vitamin that is part of the B complex and is therefore essential for the health of your body. Also known as folate and vitamin B9, folic acid is actually the synthetic form of folate.
Soluble in water, folate is found naturally in food. Its synthetic form, folic acid, is used in the manufacture of medicines, foods and supplements.
Folic acid is used by our bodies to create blood cells, in addition to helping to heal wounds, increase muscles and produce essential substances for the brain and nervous system.
The fact is that folic acid is a fundamental vitamin for the formation of DNA and is especially important in fetal development.
Due to its importance in the proper functioning of the organism, especially, but not exclusively, for pregnant women, folic acid needs to be replaced daily.
This demand occurs because our body cannot store the vitamin for a long time. Because it is soluble in water, folic acid is even released through urine.
How important is folic acid during pregnancy?
Folic acid is an especially important nutrient for pregnant women. This is because this vitamin acts in the correct fetal development and in the formation of the neural tube.
Due to its importance in the formation of babies, experts recommend that anyone who intends to become pregnant or who is in early pregnancy should, together with the doctor, consider supplementation.
Folic acid supplementation should preferably be started at least one month before pregnancy. In addition, vitamin B9 supplementation should be maintained for the first eight weeks after conception.
It is precisely in this period that the development of the fetal nervous system and neural tube occurs, which will give rise to the brain and spinal cord.
Folic acid, therefore, acts to prevent and decrease the chances of the baby being born with some malformation.
A study by the University of California, USA, found that the use of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy decreases the chances of the baby being born with autism, for example.
Although, today, the majority is of unplanned pregnancy, experts warn about the importance of planning.
According to researchers, planning a pregnancy is the best way to prevent neurological malformations, since you can ingest the correct dose of folic acid beforehand.
For the Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Associations, with folic acid supplementation before and during the first trimester of pregnancy, it will be possible to reduce the risk of malformation of the fetus by 85%.
What is folic acid for?
In addition to its importance for the correct formation of the baby’s nervous system, folic acid is necessary for several other functions to occur in our body.
Among them are: DNA synthesis and repair, cell division and growth, production of new proteins and formation of red blood cells.
Vitamin B9 is also important for cardiovascular, nervous system health, but its benefits go even further. Check it out below:
Ally of skin, nails and hair
All B vitamins, including folic acid, act on the health of the skin, nails and hair.
Specifically, vitamin B9 helps in the growth of nails and hair, fights acne and dermatitis and controls skin oils. In addition, folic acid protects against cancer and helps control the progression of vitiligo.
Folic acid, in conjunction with other B vitamins, also plays an important role in strengthening the immune system and preventing infections.
Good for the brain
Folic acid plays an important role in maintaining brain function, cognitive ability and mental health. The fact is, adequate levels of vitamin B9 in the body can even prevent episodes of depression.
According to studies by the Institute for Functional Medicine in Florida, United States, more than 40% of cases of depression are caused by a lack of vitamin B9 in the body.
That’s because folic acid acts on the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that guarantees good mood.
Protects the heart and circulatory system
Folic acid helps prevent heart attacks and other heart disease. When combined with B6 and B12, forming a coenzyme, the homocysteine rate decreases.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that, in addition to being the major factor in heart attacks, also damages the circulatory system. There are even some studies that claim that vitamin B9 protects against stroke.
Folic acid is also responsible for stimulating the production of blood cells and improving the absorption of iron by the body.
Folic acid supplementation can also prevent cancer from developing. According to experts, vitamin B9 also helps prevent changes in DNA.
With this, the nutrient prevents the formation of defective cells and, consequently, prevents the appearance of some types of cancer. The American Cancer Society has even stated that folic acid prevents disease progression.
What is the recommended amount of folic acid?
According to the National Academy of Medicine’s Institute of the United States, the ideal amount of folic acid that should be consumed every day varies with age.
But, in addition, this amount can also vary according to the degree of deficiency and nutritional needs of each person.
But for you to have an overview of the variation of dosage for each age group check the table below:
What foods are rich in folic acid?
As we have seen, folate, in its natural form, is found in various foods that we use in our diet. Foods rich in folate are usually dark green leaves, such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and parsley.
But legumes, fruits, vegetables, eggs and even some meats also contain good amounts of vitamin B9.
The table you can see below shows some of the foods richest in folic acid and the amount present in 100-gram portions.
In addition to these foods, there are also some products that are fortified with folic acid, such as wheat flour. Therefore, products such as bread, cookies and pasta can also be sources of vitamin B9.
However, you need to pay attention to the preparation of these foods. According to experts, depending on the way the food is cooked, losses of the vitamin may occur.
The most recommended is that you cook with as little water as possible and with the lid covered.
What are the symptoms of folic acid deficiency?
You need to be very aware of the rates of folic acid present in your body. This should be done through laboratory tests and the monitoring of your doctor.
The monitoring of their rates is essential because, in most cases, the deficiency of this nutrient does not cause any physical symptoms.
However, in more severe cases of folic acid deficiency, it is possible that health problems may occur, such as fatigue, shortness of breath after light effort and mouth sores.
In addition, an intense deficiency of folic acid can even lead to anemia. And as we saw in the case of pregnant women, the absence of this vitamin can cause the fetus to have neurological malformation.
But there are still other symptoms that can arise from low levels of folic acid in your body. Are they:
- Canker sores
- Shortness of breathe
If you have one or more of these symptoms, see your doctor to analyze the best way to raise the levels of folic acid, either through food or supplementation.
When and how to take folic acid?
As we have seen, it is important that you have regular blood tests and consult with your doctor to determine the need to supplement folic acid and to what extent.
But in general, vitamin B9 is recommended as a supplement for pregnant women, lactating women, in addition to people who have anemia, excess homocysteine, among others.
Since folic acid is absorbed in the upper half of the small intestine, experts recommend that you take the tablet about 30 minutes before meals.
In this way, you help in absorbing the nutrient preventing it from mixing with food during the digestive process.
In addition, experts suggest that, whenever possible, try to associate folic acid with other or even all B vitamins. This reduces the chance of causing an imbalance between vitamins.
What are the problems caused by the interactions of folic acid with other substances?
Although it is beneficial to combine folic acid with other vitamins and nutrients, some substances and medications can impair the effect of B9 on our body.
Alcohol, for example, interferes with the absorption of folic acid by the body, in addition to increasing the amount of the vitamin that is eliminated in the urine.
Therefore, it is very common for alcoholics to have a higher incidence of folic acid deficiency and need to resort to supplements.
Excessive use of alcohol and specific medications impair the absorption of folic acid in the body.
In addition, some medications, such as anticonvulsants and for rheumatism, can also interfere with the absorption of folic acid by our body.
Therefore, if you are using any substance or medication, we recommend that you consult a specialist before starting folic acid supplementation.
Does folic acid make you fat?
Folic acid is not fattening because this nutrient has no calories and, because it is soluble in water, it is also not stored in excess by the body. That is, even if consumed exaggeratedly, part of the folic acid is eliminated through the urine.
However, vitamin B9 deficiency can decrease appetite or even cause digestive problems such as diarrhea, for example.
When using vitamin B9 supplementation to correct the deficiency, the body regains the correct body weight, which can, but should not, be confused with the process of putting on weight.
That is, like all B vitamins, folic acid is a very important nutrient for metabolism and must be at levels suitable for those who want to lose weight.
What are the consequences of excess folic acid?
As it is a water-soluble vitamin, the regulation of the amount of folic acid in the body is well controlled. That is, there will be no problem if you consume the vitamin through food.
However, excessive and prolonged intake of folic acid supplementation in capsules can cause health problems, from mild to more serious.
Prolonged consumption or above 5000 mcg of folic acid per day can cause serious health problems.
Among the problems that the excess of this vitamin can cause is the deficiency of vitamin B12. And, as a consequence of this deficiency, serious problems in the nervous system can occur, in addition to anemia.
Therefore, as we have seen, it is highly recommended to use the B9 supplement in association with the others in the B complex, precisely to avoid an imbalance in the rates of these nutrients in the body.
Other complications that may occur in your health due to excessive consumption of folic acid supplement are:
- Digestive problems
- Skin reactions (urticaria)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
What are the advantages of folic acid supplementation?
The benefits of folic acid supplementation are numerous. As we have seen, this vitamin is responsible for strengthening the immune system and participating in the correct formation of babies’ nervous systems.
In addition, vitamin B9 promotes good brain health, preventing problems such as depression.
Another advantage is that folic acid also prevents anemia, since it stimulates the formation of blood cells; and prevents cancer. It also fights heart disease, such as heart attack, for example; strengthens hair and nails, and helps prevent skin problems.
On the other hand, folic acid also has its disadvantages. The main one is that the use of the supplement in excess and in prolonged form can cause serious health problems, including deficiency of other vitamins in the body.
In addition, the incorrect use of vitamin B9 supplement can also cause health problems such as digestive and skin problems.
The following are the main advantages and disadvantages of the folic acid supplement:
- Participates in the formation of the fetal nervous system during pregnancy
- Participates in cell division and blood cell formation
- Strengthens the immune system
- Good for heart, brain, skin, nails and hair
- Prevents cancer, depression and anemia
- Controls the evolution of vitiligo
- Too much causes vitamin B12 deficiency
- Misuse causes health problems
The price of the folic acid supplement varies depending on the manufacturer brand, composition, dosage and quantity. However, in general, we can say that you will find folic acid costing between R $ 16 and R $ 150.
Of course, you don’t have to buy the most expensive of all. However, be alert with very cheap products, as the quality of the substance may not be as effective.
Where to buy?
You will find the folic acid supplement for sale in pharmacies, supplement stores, department stores and hypermarkets.
But, still, our recommendation is that you make your purchase in online stores like Amazon, for example.
That way, you not only guarantee more options of brands, sizes and dosages to choose from, but you also get folic acid from the comfort of your home.
Purchasing criteria: What you should consider before choosing folic acid
Now that you know the benefits and care you should take when starting folic acid supplementation, you need to choose from the various products offered on the market today.
To make the best choice, in addition to monitoring your doctor, you need to know the characteristics that differentiate one product from another.
Therefore, we have selected for you the main factors that must be taken into account before purchasing the folic acid supplement. Are they:
In the following, we will explain to you each of these factors in detail for you to invest in the best folic acid supplement.
The first factor that we recommend you take into consideration before purchasing vitamin B9 is the composition of the supplement.
In this regard, you can choose between two options: folic acid in its isolated and pure version and folic acid combined with other substances and vitamins.
If you choose the nutrient in its pure and isolated version, make sure that there is no other element included in the composition of the supplement.
But, if you prefer to buy folic acid combined with other substances, you need to assess your nutritional needs to avoid damage to your health with excessive consumption.
As we have seen, one of the recommendations is to use folic acid in conjunction with other B vitamins. It is no wonder that one of the most popular combinations you will find is that of folic acid with vitamin B12 and iron, for example.
Next, we suggest that you look at how the supplement is consumed. As in most cases, folic acid can be found in both capsule and liquid form, and in rarer cases, even in powder form.
To make the best choice, take into account your lifestyle and ease of swallowing. Capsule folic acid is usually more practical, allowing you to consume your daily dose anywhere.
The liquid version is also practical in this sense, but, unlike the capsule, this is a better option for those who have difficulty swallowing pills.
The powdered version of folic acid is more commonly found in combination with collagen and other substances.
Another very important factor that you should check before purchasing the vitamin B9 supplement is the dosage of the product.
In general, the dose of folic acid varies between one and two capsules that must be taken every day.
In addition, in each dose, the amount of folic acid that must be consumed can still vary between 240mcg to 800mcg. Remembering that the dosage above 5000mcg per day can be highly harmful to your health.
In order to avoid excess, we recommend that you also take into account the quantity of each bottle, which varies considerably between manufacturers.
If you choose the capsule version, you can find the folic acid supplement in bottles containing between 30 and 250 capsules. In its liquid form, the vitamin B9 supplement may contain between 20ml and 100ml.
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