Folic acid is an essential micronutrient, which can be derived from food sources. The main sources of folic acid or folate include dark leafy green vegetables, liver, yeast, asparagus and Brussels sprouts (1). Other sources of folic acid include fruits, nuts, beans, grain products, and more. The lack of this essential micronutrient is referred to as a folic acid deficiency.
Folic acid is very important to the human body. It plays an active role in the formation of hemoglobin and helps in the synthesis of nucleic acids in red blood cells. It’s easily absorbed via the portal vein from the small intestine and passed on to tissues through overall body circulation.
Understanding the leading causes of folic acid deficiency is essential because this nutrient may give 50% more protection from various birth defects. Folic acid is also used to repair and maintain the DNA cells and is, thus, a vital component during the development of a fetus.
This nutrient plays an important role in helping red blood cells to circulate energy to various parts of the human body. Folic acid also aids in the process of discharging waste from the human body. If a person is feeling tired and lethargic, one of the causes could be a deficiency of folic acid in their diet.
Those who have malnutrition or consume alcohol are all at risk of being deficient in this vitamin. Malnutrition can be the result of not eating enough of the green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, and broccoli.
One more thing to consider is the quality of the food you eat. Overcooking some vegetables can make them lose their folic acid content. Some other important risk factors could be prescription drugs. Some drugs could suppress and inhibit the absorption of this nutrient. You can talk to your doctor about any risk factors associated with the drugs you take.
What’s challenging is that the symptoms of folic acid deficiency might not appear for a long time. The top on the list of symptoms of folic acid deficiency is suffering from lack of energy; however, this can also happen due to several other reasons. Diarrhea (2) and headaches with difficulties in concentration can be symptoms of folic acid deficiency, as well.
Methylated folic acid (or L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate) and vitamin B12 could play a positive role in handling mood disorders. When you notice a family member or a friend acting depressed, perhaps they are lacking folic acid. Additionally, don’t forget that folic acid is used for many other reasons. It’s used to keep bones strong, fight toxins, reduce cancer risk, and lessen the effects of Alzheimer’s. Moreover, active folate supplements may also help reduce cardiovascular risk in patients with a family history of high cholesterol (3). Methylfolate helps build red blood cells and in synergy with other B vitamins, it can also enhance the quality of your skin (4). Eating the right amount of natural food would be the ideal way to get folate into the body. But if you have an MTHFR defect (like ~70% of the population), then you may need to take the bioactive form, L-5-MTHF via a supplement. Talk to your doctor to see if you might benefit from taking an activated folate.