Commonly called folic acid, folate is arguably the most researched conventional nutrient of recent years. Many people are familiar with the name of this B vitamin, and it has long been recognised as a key nutrient in human health. Low intakes of folate can have devastating effects, ranging from birth defects to blood diseases and possibly even cancers.
You may be confused by all the different terms used for folate, so here is a simplified explanation
Much more recent in our understanding of this critical B vitamin is its many different forms in food, and its influence far beyond the well-known impact of birth defects. It is now shown to have benefits in blood diseases, some cancers and depression.
If the word folate sounds like foliage to you, this is not an accident. The words share a common root (the Latin word folium, meaning leaf), which helps remind us that the richest sources of folate are green plant foods.
Below are some other great sources of folate.
- Green leafy veggies
- Organ meats
- Sunflower seeds
Like most water-soluble vitamins, folate can frequently be lossed from foods during processing. Aim to eat fresh whereever possible and minimally cook foods, leave your veggies a little crunchy.
Certain drugs and supplements play a role in decreasing and/or interrupting folate absorption as well as lowering folate levels in the body. These include, but are not limited to:
- Antacids: e.g. magnesium oxide
- Anticonvulsants: e.g. gabapentin, diazepam, valproic acid
- Corticosteroids: e.g. prednisone, hydrocortisone, dexamethasone
- NSAID: e.g. ibuprofen, celecoxib, meloxicam, naproxen
- Oral contraceptives
- Pancreatic enzymes
- Trimethoprim containing antibiotics
Factors increasing demand of folate include:
- antibiotic use
- B12 deficiency
- coeliac disease
- pregnancy and lactation
- MTHFR polymorphism
- oral contraceptive use
- premature and low birth weight infants
- chemically sensitive individuals
- anticoagulant therapy
Nutrient friends of folate
Folate is a member of the B vitamins, and like the others in this group, it will rely on the presence of the entire group of 'B's' to do its job effectively. Luckily, most of the B vitamins are found in the same plant foods that are rich in folate, so a diet rich in one is often rich in the others too.
There is one exception to the above 'rule', the B vitamin whose role is most entwined with folate - vitamin B12. B12 is found in animal products, fermented plant foods and mushrooms.
Other important nutrients to ensure efficient folate utilisation include iron, magnesium, zinc, vit C and serine.
Please consult with a healthcare practitioner before taking supplements. The B-group of vitamins are a very sensitive bunch, so taking guidance from an expert will ensure you take the right doses to get you to optimal health and wellbeing.
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