Folate is found in green vegetables, corn, beets, nuts and seeds, legumes, peas, and beans, as well as liver and eggs. There are tremendous health benefits of folate, from lowering the risk of heart disease to promoting fetal development and healthy pregnancy. A form of vitamin B9, the nutrient can help prevent depression, benefit the liver and kidneys, and boost the immune system. Though similar to folic acid, folate is naturally produced and present in a number of foods. Folic acid, on the other hand, is synthesized in a lab and can lead to toxicity issues if not processed properly by the body. Folate is largely harmless, as the body can process excesses in nearly all cases.
Folate plays a vital role in fetal cell growth during the embryonic phase. The chance of many fetal abnormalities is lessened considerably when women ingest a healthy amount of folate. Numerous studies show folate and folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) by as much as 60%. Congenital heart defects can also be prevented when potential mothers take a multivitamin containing folate before conception. Additionally, folate and folic acid can help increase the length of the gestation stage, lower the risk of premature birth, and increase birthweights.
Folate deficiency affects specific groups disproportionately. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are prone to this condition, as are individuals with diabetes, liver disease, and alcohol dependency issues. People who are on kidney dialysis or are taking diuretics, laxatives, or methotrexate are also at risk. Folate-rich foods can correct this deficiency and tend to be rich in other vitamins and minerals, as well.
Heart disease is complex and can be the result of many factors, including elevated levels of homocysteine. This protein adds rigidity to blood vessels and can raise hypertension and increase the risk of stroke or coronary artery disease. Once metabolized, folate becomes tetrahydrofolate, which breaks down homocysteine into the heart-healthy protein methionine.
Numerous studies show people who suffer from depression have lower folate levels. Folate synthesizes dopamine and serotonin, an imbalance of which can lead to anxiety and depression. People with eating disorders or alcohol dependency are also seen to benefit from increased folate levels.
Studies show folate has anti-aging properties. The antioxidants in the vitamin reduce the oxidative stress caused by free radical cells that inhibit healthy cell production and can lead to conditions like cancer. Animal studies have highlighted the potential folate has to slow aging and even increase lifespan!
Cancer development effectively begins when a single cell or cluster of cells does not stop growing. Many factors can trigger this extraneous growth, but once it starts, damage to DNA can cause mutations. Compared to folic acid supplements, folate does a better job of protecting DNA from gene mutation.
For many, fertility is an issue and folate can boost the chance of successful fertilization for both men and women. In women, folate can help improve egg-release from the ovaries and the likelihood of carrying the fetus to term. Folate, along with zinc supplements, may increase sperm density in men by up to 80%, and improve the general health of these reproductive cells.
Folate has properties that may save your eyes and ears as you age. Studies show the vitamin can slow and reduce age-related hearing loss. It can also reduce the rate of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of age-related blindness. Other studies indicate consuming folate over the long term, along with vitamin B6 and B12, can slow the condition by as much as 40%.
The liver is essential for processing toxins on a daily basis. Antioxidants glutathione and methionine are vital to this process, and folate seems to maintain the levels of these antioxidants, thereby promoting liver detoxification.
Three studies show folate, when taken along with blood pressure medication, can help people with kidney disease. Each study indicates such supplementation can strengthen the heart, improving or prolonging the lives of individuals with end-stage kidney disease.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.