Folic Acid Background and Benefits
Folic acid has the chemical formula C19H19N7O6 and is known by many other names such as vitamin B9, pteroyl-L-glutamate and pteroyl-L-glutamic acid. The term “folate” is also used to refer to the deprotonated ion of folic acid, typically within the context of food additives and health supplements.
Herschel K. Mitchell and others first isolated folic acid in 1941 from spinach leaves. He named it after the Latin word folium, meaning "leaf," to indicate its abundance in leafy green vegetables. Bob Stokstad synthesized pure folic acid in 1943 and later determined its chemical structure.
Folic acid is an essential human nutrient, meaning that it can’t be synthesized in the body. The minimum daily requirement of folic acid is 400 micrograms (mcg) for adults and 600 mcg for pregnant women. Folic acid is biologically inactive in pure form and must first be converted to other forms such as dihydrofolic acid and tetrahydrofolic acid before it becomes biologically useful.
While folic acid and folate are terms that are used interchangeably, they are not the same. Folate is the nutrient found naturally in food, while folic acid is the synthetic version of folate used in supplements.
While our Xtend-Life mission is to provide natural ingredients over synthetics, in the case of folate, it is not easily extracted from foods, and most people do not take in enough folate in their regular diets. Given the essential nature of folic acid – which is generally used to support cellular function – we chose to include the synthetic folic acid, which is converted to useable forms once it enters the body and works more effectively in synergy with the other nutrients included in our supplements.
Folic acid is most useful for processes involving rapid cell division, especially fetal development. It is also essential for producing red blood cells.
Uses of Folic Acid
The best-known use of folic acid in health supplements is the support for cognitive function and mood. It may also help to support heart health as well as healthy pregnancy and fetal development.
The ability of folic acid to support healthy homocysteine levels may also help to support cognitive function, especially in older people.
Heart health support
Folic acid may support heart health by managing homocysteine levels. This benefit helps to maintain a healthy cholesterol profile along with other cardiovascular benefits.
Folic acid may also help support or manage low moods, especially in combination with other B vitamins such as B6 and B12.
Folic acid supplements have been linked to healthy early fetal development, particularly with respect to neural tube formation. Common neural tube defects include spina bifida and cleft palates.
Signs You May Need Folic Acid
The most common signs of a folic acid deficiency include weight loss and loss of appetite. It can also cause physical weakness, heart palpitations, headaches and a sore tongue. Psychological signs that you may need folic acid supplements include behavioral disorders and irritability. Adults with an advanced folic acid deficiency may suffer from megaloblastic and macrocytic anemia.
Babies born to women with low folic acid levels may have a low birth weight and a greater risk of neural tube defects. Those living in institutional settings (i.e. nursing homes) are more likely to suffer from a folic acid deficiency, and should be taking a supplement.
Synonyms and Similar Forms of Folic Acid