The Benefits of Folic Acid

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Folic Acid can help prevent heart disease and depression


Modern medicine has succeeded in developing powerful drugs to treat serious disease.

The side effects of these treatments have generated a new interest in preventive medicine.

For those of you who have seen a Nurse Practitioner, you know that our focus is on preventive medicine & health promotion, as well as the treatment of diseases.

One well known secret is folic acid. This vitamin has demonstrated a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, some forms of cancer, and various neurological impairments including depression. Indeed, the benefits of folic acid are many, and not to be overlooked.

Scientists are now looking at what dose of folic acid might produce optimal benefits. The findings show that many people may benefit from folic acid doses far exceeding what is found in today’s dietary supplements.

Folic acid, also referred to as folate or vitamin B9, has been the subject of growing

scientific interest in the past decade. Although not yet widely recognized by the medical community, folic acid may be an important addition to the disease-prevention arsenal, particularly against cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, and certain cancers.

Homocysteine can make blood clot more easily than normal, increasing the risk of both heart attack and death by heart attack. Inadequate levels of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 can lead to increased homocysteine levels.

It is common sense that quitting smoking, avoiding saturated and transfats, and exercising regularly may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. For many people, however, these lifestyle changes are not easily attainable.

A folic acid deficiency in the diet during the first two weeks of pregnancy causes birth defects such as spina bifida (incomplete development of the vertebral column).

Researchers now believe that major depressive disorders and cardiovascular disease are mutually associated, sharing signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome, usually caused by being overweight or obese, lack of physical exercise, and genetic factors.

In both major depressive disorders and cardiovascular disease, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are diminished while plasma homocysteine levels are elevated.

While most folic acid studies have focused on heart health, some recent findings suggest that folic acid either has antidepressant properties or can act as an augmenting mediator for standard antidepressant treatment.

Depressive symptoms are the most common neuropsychiatric manifestation of folate deficiency. Clinicians now believe that patients with low plasma folate levels do not respond to antidepressant treatment as well as those with adequate folate levels. Consequently, folate is believed to play an important role in regulating mood.

Doses of folic acid range from 400mcg/day to high doses of 5000 mcg/day in some of the studies. Only in the past decade have scientists begun to unravel how nutrients help the human body prevent, manage, and treat disease. Inexpensive and readily available to most people, high-dose folic acid has the potential to positively influence the health of people throughout the world.


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