The Top Ten Reasons Why You Need More Folate in Your Diet

   By: Dr. E. C. Gordon

   2013-03-11 07:25 AM

Folate (also known as folic acid) is a B-complex vitamin that is most famous for its role in promoting healthy pregnancies. However, it turns out that many aspects of your health can suffer if you do not have enough folate in your diet. Certain foods are particularly good sources of this nutrient, including spinach, asparagus, parsley, broccoli, lentils and beets. Although most people know that a healthy diet is one that is rich in folate, few know just why it is so important. Read on to discover ten surprising and important reasons why a higher intake of folate could help to improve and extend your life.

1) It can reduce your risk of suffering from cognitive impairments:

Folate prevents the build-up of an amino acid called homocysteine, and large amounts of homocysteine have been shown to promote deterioration of important brain cells. In particular, homocysteine causes problems with the brain cells that produce dopamine, and this means that high levels make you more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Studies show that if you have enough folate in your diet, you are more likely to avoid not just Parkinson’s but also other cognitive impairments (such as dementia). For example, one research project found that people with the lowest blood levels of folate were more than three times as likely to suffer from some form of cognitive impairment.

2) It can influence mood:

Several different studies support the claim that folate supplements can help to reduce depression, and it is also suspected that this vitamin can aid in the treatment of mental fatigue, memory problems and persistent irritability. It is currently thought that these health benefits come from the fact that folate helps to keep neurotransmitters properly balanced (as the very production of these neurotransmitters requires folate).

 3) It promotes healthy bones:

A low folate intake is associated with the development of osteoporosis (i.e. brittle bones) and an increased tendency to suffer from fractures. Once again, it is thought that this is because people who do not consume enough folate have too much homocysteine in their bodies. One study in the Netherlands found that people with the highest homocysteine levels were around twice as likely to be at risk of bone fractures. In addition, several supplementary studies have shown that this risk dramatically drops once more folate is consumed and homocysteine levels are lowered.

 4) It can boost dental health:

The production of certain cells in your mouth depends on your body having enough folate, and this means that without a rich supply of folate your dental health can easily suffer. Research shows that folate deficiency leads to an increased likelihood of developing both gingivitis (i.e. inflamed gums) and gum disease.

 5) It reduces your risk of developing certain forms of cancer:

Cancer research shows that people who are deficient in folate are more likely to suffer from cancers of the lung, uterus, cervix, and digestive system. As a result, consuming plenty of folate lowers your risk of suffering from all of these forms of cancer.

6) It helps to prevent anemia:
By promoting the production of red blood cells, folate reduces your risk of developing anemia (i.e. a condition in which a lack of red blood cells leads to tiredness and cognitive difficulties). Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body, and your vital organs need oxygen in order to function properly.

7) It can influence energy levels:
People who suffer from chronic fatigue and lethargy often later find out that they are deficient in folate. If you increase your folate intake, you are more likely to feel energetic and rested after a full night’s sleep.

8) It can help postmenopausal women:
Postmenopausal women experience a range of health problems, and folate appears to help with some of the most prominent. In particular, women who take folate supplements reliably experience fewer uncomfortable hot flashes.

9) It can protect your heart:
If your diet lacks the right amount of folate, you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. This appears to be because folate prevents a build-up of homocysteine, as large amounts of homocysteine are correlated with an increased likelihood of heart disease. Studies show that a diet rich in folic acid reduces levels of homocysteine and risk of cardiovascular disease.

10) It helps unborn babies to develop:
Folate is necessary if an unborn child’s brain and spinal cord are to properly develop, and so if you are deficient in folate while you are pregnant then you put your baby at risk of suffering from brain and spinal cord problems. A lack of folate is linked to neural tube defects such as spina bifida (which leads to an exposed and poorly functioning spines), and anencephaly (which leaves part of the brain exposed).

As is obvious from the above health benefits, a relatively high intake of folate is very important to your physical health. If you are an adult, you should have around 400 micrograms every day, and if you are a pregnant woman then you should have 600 micrograms.

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