Folate, also referred to as vitamin B9 or folic acid, is an essential nutrient obtained from many fruits and green leafy vegetables. Not getting enough of this B vitamin can lead to many health problems. One of these is fragile X syndrome, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disease that causes developmental problems, such as learning disabilities. From this study, the researchers were able to get a better idea of why folate deficiency has been associated with many other diseases, including anemia, infertility, age-related dementia, cancer, and mental health problems.
In the study, which was conducted at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, researchers specifically looked for a link between folate deficiency and problems with DNA replication and segregation. They found that the lack of folate can lead to more harmful chromosome abnormalities.
Folate plays a role in the production and repair of DNA. When your DNA replicates, the daughter cells don’t get the right amount of DNA after your cells divide. In some cases, an entire chromosome becomes missing. The researchers believe that this is the reason why folate deficiency is associated with the development of many diseases.
What’s even more alarming is that when a cell loses a part of a chromosome or the whole chromosome, it cannot be restored. When folate deficiency results in problems with cell division, it cannot be fixed by consuming more folic acid. This means that damage cannot be reversed. These findings of the study suggested that getting enough folate may prevent or lower the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer and age-related dementia. Folate deficiency can also cause anemia, a condition wherein a person has low red blood cells.
Pregnant women also need more folate as they tend to have low levels of the vitamin. Folate deficiency in pregnant women increases their risk of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD), which is a structure that develops into the baby’s brain, spinal cord, and surrounding tissues. An infant with NTD may have spina bifida, which is an underdeveloped spinal cord, and anencephaly, which is the absence of a major part of the brain, skull, and scalp.
Prevent folate deficiency to protect yourself from diseases
Folate deficiency can occur in just a few weeks of not eating enough foods that contain folate. This is because the human body does not store the vitamin in large amounts. Lack of folate can also occur due to digestive problems that cause folate malabsorption, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease; excessive alcohol consumption; hemolytic anemia; and certain drugs such as phenytoin and sulfasalazine.
The symptoms of folate deficiency are often subtle. These include fatigue, gray hair, growth problems, mouth sores, and tongue swelling.
It is important to incorporate folate-rich foods into your diet. You can get high amounts of folate from foods like asparagus, bananas, Brussels sprouts, eggs, leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, legumes, mushrooms, peas, poultry, and tomato juice. Avoid overcooking these foods because folate can be easily destroyed by heat. If you can’t get enough folate from food like most people, you can get it in supplement form. In general, the recommended daily intake of folate should be 400 micrograms.
Learn more about the importance of getting enough folate and other nutrients at Nutrients.news.