9 Incredible Health Benefits of Folate

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

Dark leafy green vegetables are a great source of folate.

Folate, or vitamin B9, is one of many essential vitamins. You may also be familiar with folic acid as a form of folate; folic acid is the synthetic version used for food fortification and supplements. Folate is important because it plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair. It encourages cell and tissue growth. In fact, these benefits barely scratch the surface and its effects are far reaching. That bring us to nine incredible health benefits of folate.

1. Supports Normal Fetal Development

Folate plays an integral role in fetal development and the benefits for pregnant women and their offspring cannot be understated. Folate deficiency during early pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects. This is a serious problem that can lead to pregnancy termination or a baby born with spina bifida. [1] The good news? Studies have found increased folate levels from one month prior to conception to 3 months afterward can reduce the chance of these defects by 50%. [2]

2. Promotes Sperm Viability

Studies exploring the role of folate in spermatogenesis have linked it to sperm health and function. [3] Men with a lower folate intake have been shown to have sperm with incorrect chromosomal structure. [4] A 2012 study reported that previously infertile patients who took a nutritional supplement, which included folic acid, experienced significant improvement in sperm motility and successfully achieved pregnancy with their partners. [5]

3. Great for the Heart

Folate helps metabolize homocysteine into methionine, an essential amino acid. Without adequate folate, homocysteine levels increase. You don’t want this; homocysteine has been linked to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular problems. [6] The evidence is clear, to encourage cardiovascular health by facilitating the breaking down of homocysteine, folate is incredible.

4. May Reduce the Risk of Stroke

Not only is homocysteine bad for the heart, it can lead to stroke. An overabundance of homocysteine, or hyperhomocysteinemia, results from a breakdown in the methionine-homocysteine metabolism. This results in increased chances of blood vessel damage and blood clotting. Although stroke can have many causes and no one measure is a complete safeguard, folate, or the supplemental form folic acid, have been recommended for use to reduce the risk. [7]

5. Encourages Normal Cholesterol Levels

A Polish study found folic acid supplementation encourages normal cholesterol levels. In the study of 124 individuals, researchers observed significant reductions in LDL cholesterol levels in subjects who’d supplemented with .4 mg of folic acid daily for 12 weeks. The result is believed to have been derived from reduced homocysteine levels. [8]

6. Provides Neurological Support

Research suggests there may be a link between folate levels and neural health. A Korean study of elderly patients found that those suffering from dementia had the highest levels of homocysteine, and the lowest folate levels. Patients in the control group who did not suffer from dementia had higher folate levels. [9]

7. Helps Perinatal Mood Management

Often, perinatal depression cannot be addressed with pharmaceuticals due to concern for the child. This has led researchers to seek out more safe, natural alternatives. Folate, along with other B vitamins, is known to encourage the creation and absorption of neurotransmitters. Some experimental studies have indicated that micronutrients, including folic acid, can improve symptoms and outcomes. [10]

8. Great for Colon Health

Could folate be good for your colon? A 2013 case control study linked folate intake to gene activation that alters the chances of developing colorectal cancer. [11] It’s also a testament to the importance of diet at the cellular level.

9. Reduces the Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

A Harvard Medical School trial of women with a risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) explored the impact of B vitamin therapy (including folic acid, vitamin B6, and B12). The control group had a higher incidence of AMD than the group taking the B vitamin therapy. Researchers concluded that daily supplementation might help the fight in reducing the risk of AMD. [12]

Folate: The Facts are Clear

Within the body, folate is an activator. It has a positive action on cardiovascular, neural and psycho-emotional health. The research suggests that maintaining a consistent dietary intake of folate is essential to managing homocysteine metabolism and protecting long-term health. I agree. Is folate part of your nutrient intake? What’s your favorite source of folate? Please leave a comment below and share it with us!

References:

  1. Kondo A, Morota N, Ihara S, Saisu T, Inoue K, Shimokawa S, Fujimaki H, Matsuo K, Shimosuka Y, Watanabe T. Risk factors for the occurrence of spina bifida (a case-control study) and the prevalence rate of spina bifida in Japan. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2013 Sep;97(9):610-5. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23179.
  2. Manniƫn J, de Jonge A, Cornel MC, Spelten E, Hutton EK. Factors associated with not using folic acid supplements preconceptionally. Public Health Nutr. 2013 Oct 10:1-7.
  3. Ebisch IM, Thomas CM, Peters WH, Braat DD, Steegers-Theunissen RP. The importance of folate, zinc and antioxidants in the pathogenesis and prevention of subfertility. Hum Reprod Update. 2007 Mar-Apr;13(2):163-74. Epub 2006 Nov 11.
  4. Young SS, Eskenazi B, Marchetti FM, Block G, Wyrobek AJ. The association of folate, zinc and antioxidant intake with sperm aneuploidy in healthy non-smoking men. Hum Reprod. 2008 May;23(5):1014-22. doi: 10.1093/humrep/den036. Epub 2008 Mar 19.
  5. Busetto GM, Koverech A, Messano M, Antonini G, De Berardinis E, Gentile V. Prospective open-label study on the efficacy and tolerability of a combination of nutritional supplements in primary infertile patients with idiopathic astenoteratozoospermia. Arch Ital Urol Androl. 2012 Sep;84(3):137-40.
  6. Joseph J, Loscalzo J. Methoxistasis: integrating the roles of homocysteine and folic acid in cardiovascular pathobiology. Nutrients. 2013 Aug 15;5(8):3235-56. doi: 10.3390/nu5083235.
  7. Terwecoren A, Steen E, Benoit D, Boon P, Hemelsoet D. Ischemic stroke and hyperhomocysteinemia: truth or myth? Acta Neurol Belg. 2009 Sep;109(3):181-8.
  8. Mierzecki A, Koda K, Bukowska H, Chestowski K, Makarewicz-Wujec M, Kozowska-Wojciechowska M. Association between low-dose folic acid supplementation and blood lipids concentrations in male and female subjects with atherosclerosis risk factors. Med Sci Monit. 2013 Sep 4;19:733-9. doi: 10.12659/MSM.889087.
  9. Song JH, Park MH, Han C, Jo SA, Ahn K. Serum Homocysteine and Folate Levels are Associated With Late-life Dementia in a Korean Population. Osong Public Health Res Perspect. 2010 Dec;1(1):17-22. doi: 10.1016/j.phrp.2010.12.006.
  10. Rechenberg K, Humphries D. Nutritional interventions in depression and perinatal depression. Yale J Biol Med. 2013 Jun 13;86(2):127-37. Print 2013 Jun.
  11. Ashmore JH, Lesko SM, Muscat JE, Gallagher CJ, Berg AS, Miller PE, Hartman TJ, Lazarus P. Association of dietary and supplemental folate intake and polymorphisms in three FOCM pathway genes with colorectal cancer in a population-based case-control study. Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2013 Oct;52(10):945-53. doi: 10.1002/gcc.22089.
  12. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Chew EY, Albert CM, Manson JE. Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):335-41. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2008.574.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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