Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin, also known as vitamin B9 or folacin. It is found naturally in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, dairy products, meats, eggs, seafood, and grains. However, only about 50% of the folate naturally present in food is bioavailable. Folate is critical in the metabolism of nucleic acid precursors and several amino acids, as well as in methylation reactions. Folic acid helps our bodies produce and maintain new cells, and it helps prevent DNA changes that may lead to cancer. Folate deficiency can cause anemia, insomnia, irritability, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and more serious health problems. An inadequate folate status during early pregnancy increases the risk of congenital anomalies, such as neural tube defects (NTDs), which are life-threatening and cause life-long disabilities. Therefore, it has been recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service that even before becoming pregnant, women should consume 400 µg of synthetic folic acid daily, whether in the form of foods or supplements, as well as maintain a healthy diet of folate-rich foods to reduce NTD risk.
Part of the book: Functional Food