Folic Acid is an essential B vitamin, also recognised by the following names: Vitamin B9, Vitamin M, Vitamin Bc or Folacin. B Vitamins are crucial nutrients needed by the body for growth, development, and a range of other important functions
Folic acid is the synthetic form of the nutrient folate. It’s used in dietary/health supplements and also added to processed, or “fortified,” foods, such as breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and rice. The term folate is regularly used to describe both natural and synthetic versions.
Folic acid/Folate is a water soluble vitamin; because of this the body is unable to produce or store large amounts of it easily. Instead a great deal of it leaves the body via urine, so our bodies need to replace the water soluble vitamins on a regular basis. This means we need to continually consume folic acid via diet to replenish the body’s required amounts; hence, why Folic acid is readily available and recommended as a supplement.
There are natural food sources where Folate is present in small amounts, these include, liver; peas; beetroot; dark green leafy vegetables (kale and spinach); brussels sprouts; okra; soya beans; asparagus; chickpeas; kidney beans; broccoli; cabbage; yeast extract; avocado; lentils; nuts; seeds; barley; orange juice; and tomato juice. Folic acid is also regularly added to fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and reduced or low fat spreads. The main sources of Folic acid in the UK are supplements and fortified foods.1
Folic acid is an orange to yellow crystalline powder with the molecular formula of C19H19N7O6.
A host of active ingredients found in both foods, such as vegetables, and in dietary supplements, are chemically unstable, and sensitive to external factors such as UV light, temperature, oxygen and moisture; for example, many vitamins, carotenoids and botanical extracts, affecting the chemical structure and therefore their bioactivity in the human body.
In its naturally occurring form folate is very sensitive to factors such as light and heat so classed as ‘very unstable’ when stored or prepared. In its synthetic form as Folic acid it’s classed as chemically ‘stable’.2 Folic acid is incompatible with heavy metal ions, strong oxidizing agents and strong reducing agents.3
History of Folic acid
Folate was first brought to the attention of the medical world in 1931, when British born haematologist, Dr. Lucy Wills, discovered that it had a fundamental role to play in biochemical processes in the human body. Dr. Wills made the link between a Folate deficiency and anemia in pregnant women. The pure crystalline form of folic acid was first extracted in 1943 by Robert Stokstad, a biochemical nutritionist and pioneer in vitamin research.4
UK Recommended Daily Requirements of Folic Acid
Folate is recommended by health officials as part of a healthy, balanced diet. We are advised to eat a variety of between 5-7 portions of different fruits and vegetables daily. Vegetables are important sources of many vitamins and nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C. But it’s often necessary to enhance a healthy diet with the right combination of dietary supplements to ensure we are maintaining the required levels of all essential nutrients. This is particularly relevant because much of the nutrient goodness is lost out of food when cooked and subjected to heat, for example.
The recommended daily allowance of Folate is dependent on age and gender and other factors. The amount of Folate/ Folic acid required increases as we get older. Women of childbearing age who wish to conceive require the highest amount of Folic acid.
Adults 19-50 years
Adults 50 years and above
Women Childbearing age/Pregnant
minimum of 400mcg
Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic Acid is so important because it serves a variety of crucial purposes in the body. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of the human body and and plays a pivotal role in a variety of vital biochemical processes. Folic acid is involved as a catalyst for countless metabolic processes in the body and plays a huge role in the workings of the nervous system:
- Vitamin B complex combined with folic acid can help normalise metabolism.
- It can also prevent anemia and heart disease.7
- In addition to this, it helps to break down macronutrients that are crucial in helping the organs in the body work properly.
- Folic acid also acts as a cofactor in biological reactions involving folate.
- Folic acid is used to produce chemical messengers in the brain.
- Helps to form DNA. Essentially Folic acid is required to synthesize DNA, carry out DNA repair and methylate DNA.6
- Folic acid works to help form new cells within the body; It functions to form red blood cells, which transport oxygen and assist with the removal of carbon dioxide from the body via the lungs; and it helps to keep cells functioning properly.
- Vitamin B12 and Folic acid (Vitamin B9) have a well founded relationship, that promotes health of the blood, and nervous system.
- Research has shown that taking B complex vitamins, including Folic acid, can benefit the symptoms of gout. Eating foods rich in vitamin B such as broccoli, bananas and tomato juice in addition to taking the B vitamin complex can assist with the overall effects. The Vitamin B complex formulation provided by Oxford Vitality contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, D-Biotin, Folic Acid and Inositol.8
- Research indicates there could be a link between a deficiency in the B Vitamins, including Folic acid, and cognitive function. In particular Folic acid could be beneficial for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia; findings link the negative symptoms with reduced blood folate levels.9
- Folic acid or folate has been found to benefit hearing loss associated with aging. There could be a link between a deficiency folate levels in the blood and the sudden loss of hearing in adults.10
- Folic acid is an essential supplement for women who want to conceive and for pregnant mothers. It can help prevent birth defects, primarily neural tubal defects. Folate deficient women who become pregnant are at greater risk of giving birth to low birth weight, premature, and/or infants with neural tube defects.11
Folic acid and Pregnancy
Folic acid is an essential micronutrient that is highly recommended for women who wish to conceive and for pregnant women. This is due to its role in modulating oxidative stress (OS), enzyme functions, signal transductions and transcription pathways that occur during fertilization and early pregnancy.12 Folic acid has been shown to increase fertility in both men and women who want to conceive. Moreover, Folic acid has been shown to significantly decrease the chances of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida and Anencephaly (abnormal brain development) in unborn babies; low concentrations of dietary and circulating folate are associated with the increased risks of preterm delivery, infant low birth weight and foetal growth retardation.13 Severe folate deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia for the pregnant woman. A Folic Acid supplement can avoid this by helping the body to produce more red blood cells.14 As an essential part of pre-pregnancy care, all women are advised to increase Folic acid intake, with a minimum of 400mcg being taken daily. This can easily be achieved by supplementation. The UK Department of Health (DoH) suggest taking Folic acid as a daily supplement (400mcg), for a minimum of 12 weeks, the first trimester.15 A vast amount of research has been carried out in the area of Folic acid, pregnancy and childbirth. Much of this research has focussed on how micronutrients, including folic acid, may affect the risk for specific birth defects. In one such study findings showed the proportion of babies in the population born with an NTD has decreased by 35% in the United States, since folic acid fortification was required in 1998.16
Folic acid deficiency
A deficiency in Folic acid can lead to many health complications including:
- Extreme tiredness/Lack of energy
- Muscle weakness
- Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- Disturbed vision
- Soreness or ulcers on tongue
- Changes in hair or skin pigmentation
- Elevated homocysteine levels
- Psychological problems, such as Depression
- Cognitive function affected, such as memory, understanding and judgement.
- Loss of taste.
- Problems with the nervous system
- Temporary infertility
- Heart conditions17
- Pregnancy complications and Birth defects18
If deficient in Folate, an increased course of Folic acid tablets can be taken to restore folate levels in the body.
Folic Acid Tablets
Because Folate is only present in some foods and only in small amounts, and because it isn’t easily stored by the body, it’s a good idea to enrich our diets with a Folic acid supplement. Research has shown that Folic acid is absorbed by the body much better than the natural form of Folate; approximately twice as efficiently, being nearly twice as potent.19
We provide this product to you as a manageable and easy to swallow 6mm Tablet. We offer two strengths of 400mcg and 800mcg, in 6 quantity sizes, so you can buy accordingly and easily manage your daily requirements.
Folic acid Fundamentals
It’s clear Folic acid is crucial as a daily supplement to diet due to the essential functions it carries out in the human body. Folic acid along with the other essential vitamins are so necessary for human health because they are intrinsically involved in the body's metabolism, cell production, tissue repair, and other vital processes. Particularly important for women who wish to conceive and pregnant women; A Folic acid supplementation is advisable for every one of us because the body uses it so quickly and is unable to store this vital vitamin. A deficiency in Folate can lead to a number of health implications and if not addressed can ultimately lead to lasting damage to the nervous system. Ensuring we are getting enough of all the different types of nutrients we need to function properly is paramount to both short and long term health.
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2 Folic Acid Food Fortification—Its History, Effect, Concerns, and Future Directions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257747/
6 Mahmood L. The metabolic processes of folic acid and Vitamin B12 deficiency. J Health Res Rev [serial online] 2014 [cited 2017 Apr 20];1:5-9. Available from: http://www.jhrr.org/text.asp?2014/1/1/5/143318
Randomized multicenter investigation of folate plus vitamin B12 supplementation in schizophrenia. (Roffman JL, Lamberti JS, Achtyes E, Macklin EA, Galendez GC, Raeke LH, Silverstein NJ, Smoller JW, Hill M, Goff DC): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467813
12 McArdle, H. J., & Ashworth, C. J. (1999). Micronutrients in fetal growth and development. British Medical Bulletin, 55(3), 499-510.