The terms folic acid and folate are sometimes used interchangeably, but they aren't exactly the same thing. Technically, they're different forms of the same thing.
When you refer to the form found naturally in foods, it's folate. When you refer to the synthetic form used in supplements or to fortify foods, it's folic acid. To make it even more confusing, another optional name is Vitamin B9. However, any of these names is better than their scientific designations pteroylglutamate and pteroylglutamic acid.
While we're on names ¦ because folate was first isolated in green, leafy vegetables, its name is based on the Latin word folium, meaning leaf.
Whatever you want to call it, folic acid is vitally important to human growth and development. It is deeply involved in the synthesis of DNA, cell division, and the metabolic processes surrounding protein. It is so important, in fact, that DNA cannot be produced without a sufficient quantity of folic acid.
Demand for this water-soluble vitamin increases along with the demand for new cells during pregnancy, for instance. Folic acid helps form red blood cells and complete hundreds of other important tasks and processes.
- Folic acid supports heart health.
- Folic acid is part of a triad of B-vitamins along with B6 and B12 which helps promote heart health.
- Folic acid helps promote healthy levels of homocysteine.
- Folic acid is an important vitamin for promoting heart health. A recent study found that folic acid supplements helped maintain healthy levels of homocysteine which is important for heart and circulatory health.
- Absorption of folic acid may decline as we age.
- Folic acid is important for healthy cell growth.
- Folic acid supports energy metabolism.
- Folic acid promotes women's health.
- Daily consumption of folic acid beginning before pregnancy is crucial because birth defects of the brain and spine can occur in the early weeks following conception, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
- Folic acid supports nervous system health.
- Folic acid promotes hair health.
- Research has found positive associations between folic acid levels in the body and eye health.
- Cell division: Folic acid is involved in virtually every body function requiring cell division. It's important for normal growth, pregnancy, lactation and early fetal growth because of its role as a coenzyme in the production of DNA, RNA and protein. Along with Vitamin B12 and C, folic acid helps the body synthesize and utilize the protein it needs for new cells and tissue.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women have an increased need for folic acid themselves, but also as support for the growing placenta and fetus. Without adequate folic acid, cell division could be diminished and fetal growth could be impaired. Folic acid is essential for proper development of the skeleton, brain, and spinal cord of the fetus.
- Cardiovascular health: Folic acid appears to support cardiovascular health by helping regulate the quantity of an amino acid called homocysteine. Folic acid, when used with vitamins B6 and B12, helps break down the homocysteine, thereby supporting heart health.
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