Can Folic Acid Affect Your Child’s Appetite?
Can Folic Acid Affect Your Child’s Appetite?
Folic acid is one of the most talked about vitamins today, but there’s a growing amount of confusion surrounding this B-complex vitamin. People are constantly searching for answers, but sometimes can only find more confusion than clarity.
Hopefully, we can relieve you of some of that confusion and even provide a solution for some people who are worried about the levels of folic acid in their child(ren).
There are a large number of studies focused on folic acid -- in its many different forms -- and its effect on the body, one of which has found a possible link between the vitamin and appetite in children. This can be essential for the child’s growth and development, allowing them to maintain a proper diet throughout their young life.
In order to fully understand how this is possible, you’re going to need a little background on folic acid itself -- including what it is, how we get it, and ways our body might be working against the levels of folic acid in the body.
Also Read: MTHFR and Methylation
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is generally used as an umbrella term, but there’s also a technical definition of folic acid that’s important to know. In fact, not knowing the real definition can be extremely misleading to anyone with low or high levels of folic acid in the body.
When used as an umbrella term, it refers to the b-complex vitamin B9. In reality, there are many different forms of Vitamin B9 -- with folic acid being just one of them. Folic acid is actually known as the synthetic form of Vitamin B9, the form that was made by man and used to fortify various foods we eat - it is also added to vitamin supplements.
We consume folic acid often in some foods, like rice, pasta, flour, breakfast cereals and bread. It is largely recommended that pregnant women consume folic acid -- due to its major role in the growth and development of children.
Folic acid has made it possible for many people to increase vitamin B9 intake without having to eat whole foods. It has also allowed us to consume it in larger doses, which is definitely needed in certain situations.
Folic Acid and Your Child’s Appetite
In addition to that, folic acid plays a role in DNA synthesis -- an essential part of growth in children. Folic acid can greatly influence cell growth and the synthesis of DNA in the gastrointestinal tract -- which will improve a child’s appetite and help them eat more consistently.
Finally, the study revealed that the introduction of folic acid supplementation didn’t lead to a noticeable weight gain, despite it leading to an increased appetite. This can be extremely beneficial to those that need a healthy and natural solution to improve poor appetite.
Also Read: Furin, a potential therapeutic target for COVID-19
What Are the Different Forms of Folic Acid?
Like we mentioned above, folic acid is just one of the various forms of vitamin B9 and they all have a different journey before being utilized by the body. You’ll often see vitamin B9 mentioned as either folic acid, folate, or methylfolate. Don’t worry; we’ll explain the difference.
Where folic acid is known as the synthetic form of vitamin B9 (explained above) - it must be converted 4 times before the body can utilize it’s most bioactive enzyme form at the cellular level. Folate is a more natural source of vitamin B9. It’s the form you’ll find in food sources and will be a much healthier source of vitamin B9 than folic acid. It’s often referred to as dihydrofolate or dietary folate.
Dihydrofolate is most commonly found in spinach, asparagus, black-eyed peas, dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, eggs, and dairy products. It has an easier journey to being utilized by the body because folic acid needs to travel to the liver before starting the many conversion steps required to become an active, absorbable form.
On the other hand, dihydrofolate still needs to be converted 3 more times before it is able to be directly used by the body at the cellular level and for its many downstream health processes.
Finally, we have methylfolate -- known as the active form of vitamin B9. Your body won’t be able to make use of vitamin B9 unless it:
- either gets converted into methylfolate from dihydrofolate (but watch out for the fact that more than half of the world’s population has a mutation that can’t do this conversion very well) OR
- you can supplement the specific form L-5-Methylfolate directly via a dietary supplement (vitamin).
Since vitamin B9 is a water-soluble vitamin, leftover or unused amounts should just be excreted through urine and would not likely serve any purpose inside the body. However, it’s worth noting that if you ingest folic acid and you happen to be one of the folks who cannot convert folic acid into methylfolate very well, due to an MTHFR gene mutation, then you could be making a lot of excess UMFA (unmetabolized folic acid). Some have connected this UMFA to cancer in some studies. So it may not seem like the form of B9 you’re taking is that important, but in fact it could have huge impacts upon your health, both now and long term. If you are going to be supplementing, it’s highly recommended to go with the active form of folate, L-Methylfolate and not folic acid. Mainly due to two reasons:
- The inefficiency of folate conversion in the body from folic acid relies on at least 4 conversions from at least that many different genes (which may or may not be working properly for you)
- The fact that more than half the population is known to have at least one main blocker to the folic acid conversion process, an MTHFR gene mutation which prevents the final step in making the fully active and usable version of folate, L-5-Methylfolate.
What Else Is Vitamin B9 Responsible For?
Even after the child is born, not getting enough vitamin B9 in one’s daily diet can lead to a wide range of health issues such as mood-related disorders, ADHD, depression, and autism. Low levels of methylfolate can also disrupt the methylation process in the body, as well as lead to high levels of homocysteine in the blood.
High homocysteine levels have contributed to a wide range of arterial damage including blood clotting in the blood vessels. This is especially true when vitamin B12 is also low, which is common for those suffering from low levels of vitamin B9.