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Nutrition

Folate 101

Overview

Folate and folic acid, another form of the compound, are essential for the creation of new cells in the body. They occur naturally in leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, lettuces, dried beans, peas, and in certain fruits. They're also heavily supplemented in our cereals, grains and breads.

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Why Folate Matters

You know the importance of vitamins and minerals for your health and performance, but do you know if you're getting enough? Do you eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Are you consuming a multitude of whole grains and legumes on a daily basis? Few people do.

Benefits of Folate

A lack of folate may triple the risk of developing dementia in old age, according to a study published in the British Medical Association's Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. The researchers measured the folate levels of over 518 elderly individuals, none of whom showed any signs of dementia and followed them for a little over two years. Over that time, 45 of those in the study developed dementia and 34 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Among those who developed the disorders, there was a strong link with folate levels, even after other factors such as age, disability, alcohol consumption, and weight change were taken into account. The researchers stated, "the onset of dementia was significantly associated with an exaggerated decline in folate.

Another study published last year in The Lancet showed an improvement in short-term memory, mental agility, and verbal fluency among persons over 50 who took a daily dose of 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. The US recommended daily dose is 400 mcg.

Folic acid has received most of its press for its role in preventing the development of certain brain and spinal cord defects, including spina bifida. It is common practice for doctors to recommend higher levels of folic acid in the form of prenatal vitamins to women who are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or of childbearing age as a preventative measure. However, now it looks like this may be a nutrient that we want to think about on a wider scale.

Take-Home Message

Eat a diet rich in greens, beans, fruits, veggies, and whole grains, but at the end of the day, if you're not getting it from your diet, you aren't getting it at all, so take a supplement. More is not always better. You always want to check with your physician. A multivitamin should cover your needs of the 400mcg per day; however, if more research comes forth, we may be increasing that amount for those who are over 50. Always check with your doctor before starting any new supplement—and supplement consistently.


Tags: Food, Supplements, Vitamins, Nutrients

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