Folic acid: what is it for?

Folic acid: what is it for?

They know it very well moms: just seen the two magic lines of the test you laugh, cry and ... you go to the pharmacy to buy thefolic acid.

Without even knowing what it is: is it a drug? It's natural? It does not matter, we were told that it is indispensable, it will do the child a lot and that is enough for us.

Folic acid actually is important for everyone, including men and adults.

For those who find themselves in this description, and for those curious to know what folic acid actually is, here are some information on folic acid and what it is used for.


Folic acid: what is it for?

Folic acid, or Vitamin B9, is a fundamental substance for the protein synthesis, for the correct formation of the Cellular DNA and dell 'hemoglobin.

This applies to all of us, not only for pregnant women: folic acid deficiencies in adults occur mainly with l'anemia megaloblastica.

Folic acid, however, helps prevent other health risk situations: it lowers the amino acid levels omocisteina, associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks.

However, pregnancy is insisted on because folic acid deficiencies have teratogenic consequences, or causes of incorrect fetal development, very serious and even fatal.

In fact, these deficiencies negatively affect the development of the neural tube of the fetus, that structure that will create the nervous system e la spine in the first weeks of pregnancy. Defects in the closure of the neural tube are caused by multiple factors, including folic acid deficiency and genetic factors.

In the fetus they manifest themselves with spina bifida (the spine develops two endings instead of one) o anencephaly (lack of or incorrect brain development).

La spina bifida involves various problems, some correctable with surgery, others that cannot be surgically resolved such as paralysis of the lower limbs, difficulty in bowel and bladder control, development difficulties physical and mental, sometimes hydrocephalus.

L'anencephaly instead, given by the incorrect closure of the anterior part of the neural tube, it involves a incomplete brain development: children with anencephaly die before birth or just born.

A less massive folate deficiency can also create other problems during pregnancy, such as fetal growth retardation, placental injury, premature birth.

Folic acid seems to play a role, not yet well understood, in prevention of other congenital defects and malformations, such as cleft lip and palate and some congenital heart defects.


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Folic acid: why is it necessary to supplement?

Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is part of the water-soluble vitamins of group B, which cannot be accumulated in the body, but must be taken through food.

Vitamin B9 comes destroyed by excessive heat and disperses in the water. In nature, folic acid is found mainly in green leafy vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, spinach, asparagus), in the liver, in milk, in some cereals and in some fruits such as oranges, kiwis and lemons.

Il daily requirement of vitamin B9, or folic acid, is about 0,2 mg. During pregnancy, however, mothers-to-be must take one double the quantity since the fetus uses the maternal reserves of folic acid to "build" itself.

The power alone could not providing enough folic acid, therefore we recommend the supplementation already to women who intend to become pregnant.

Other situations in which folic acid supplementation may be necessary aretaking drugs barbiturates and estrogen-progestins (contraceptives), elevated alcohol consumption, diabetes.

Pathological conditions of intestinal malabsorption, including the celiac disease, can cause a vitamin deficiency in general and therefore also of folic acid.


Read also:

> Diet during pregnancy: macronutrients and micronutrients

> The 5 benefits of folic acid


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