Folic acid is considered an essential nutrient because it cannot be made by the human body. It is required by the body for essential processes. Folic acid helps the body to create and maintain DNA and RNA, which is the building blocks of all life. We require folic acid to properly form red blood cells and for our bodies to metabolize protein for energy. Folic acid and other B vitamins have been shown to fight cardiovascular disease and to help prevent Alzheimers, osteoporosis, cancer and it helps to stabilize mental health.
Folic acid along with other B vitamins is an important part of the DNA and RNA replication process. Every now and then there can be a mistake in the replecation of a DNA strand, which can lead to a mutation such as cancer. Folic acid and the other B vitamins work to catch those mistakes and even prevent them so that you have healthy cells from the very beginning. In fact this is part of why folic acid is so important to take just before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects such as Spina Bifida, cleft palate, cleft lip, and other neural tube defects.
If our red blood cells dont form properly we can develop a condition known as anemia. Anemia is caused by a number of illnesses and while folic acid wont cure a potentially serious condition your doctor may prescribe folic acid for the symptom of anemia which it can fix.
When our bodies breakdown methionine one of the compounds released is homocysteine. Homocysteine is a potentially harmful compound because it is unstable and is linked to cardiovascular conditions, Alzheimers and cancer. Normally folic acid and the other B vitamins are present during this breakdown process to convert homocysteine into cysteine, which is good. If there isnt enough of the vitamins to go around then a build up of homocysteine in the blood could result.
So far its been found that homocysteine is toxic to the lining of blood vessels, which can lead to a hardening of the arteries called arteriosclerosis. Folic acid is the vitamin that is primarily involved in lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood, but the other B vitamins have been shown to have some effect.
Osteoporosis is a chronic bone degenerative condition that affects women and can start as early as thirty years of age. Evidence has shown that homocysteine is involved in the process and its believed that this may be due to a lack of blood flow to the bones. As bones need blood to provide them with oxygen and nutrients to properly grow and maintain themselves. Folic acid is essential in making sure that homocysteine doesnt reach high levels and end up damaging your blood vessels. Plus it helps with DNA and RNA replication and the maintence of cells membranes.
The recommended daily intake of folic acid is four hundred mcg. and if you are pregnant, could become pregnant or lactating you should take between six hundred and eight hundred mcg. daily.