Folic Acid and Diabetes

Leafy greens with folic acid

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a man-made version of vitamin B. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B. Folate is needed to form healthy cells and DNA. For reference, our hair and nails need new cells to grow. When a person does not have enough folate in their body, they develop folate deficiency which can cause a type of anemia. Thankfully, when a blood test diagnoses a person with folate deficiency, it is usually easy to treat. The treatment for folate deficiency is usually remedied by eating foods that are high in folate or taking a folic acid supplement.


General Benefits of Taking Folic Acid

Taking folic acid is associated with many health benefits. One is that it helps prevent changes to DNA that could cause cancer. Second, according to studies, folic acid helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Third, it also promotes healthy gums because it preserves the gum tissues. Fourth, folic acid helps maintain healthier skin because it repairs human skin cells which can promote anti-aging results.


Benefits of Folic Acid for Diabetes


Studies show folic acid proven to prevent defects in newborns specifically in preventing neural tube defects. Another study by the CDC showed that mothers who have preexisting diabetes and took folic acid during their pregnancy decreased the risk for birth defects. The American Diabetes Association and the CDC recommend women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily if they are or planning to be pregnant. During pregnancy the body needs more folate which is why the CDC recommends folic acid. Also, women taking folic acid during and before pregnancy have a decreased chance of developing gestational diabetes.

Heart Disease

Folic acid or eating a diet with high levels of folate can decrease the homocysteine levels in the body. Homocysteine levels are used to monitor heart disease, high homocysteine levels are linked to having a higher chance of heart disease. Studies have also shown that taking folic acid can decrease the chances of getting a stroke. 

Preventing Diabetes

Folic acid can help increase the breakdown of fat cells by accelerating hydrolysis, the chemical breakdown of fat because of a reaction to water. This may help prevent someone from becoming obese and/or developing type-2 diabetes.

Endothelial Dysfunction

Endothelial function maintains the proper dilation of blood vessels. When a person has a health condition such as diabetes or hypertension there is often a dysfunction of the endothelial function. Folic acid can prevent endothelial dysfunction by helping promote the dilation of blood vessels which lowers blood pressure. 

Diabetic Neuropathy

This type of neuropathy is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This is nerve damage caused by consistently high blood sugar levels. Taking folic acid may decrease the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy because it promotes nerve repair, increases myelination, protects nerves from damage caused by diabetes, and can reduce nerve pain. 


Where to find Folic Acid


Diet is an easy way to get healthy amounts of folate. Leafy green vegetables, legumes, and citrus fruits contain folate, which is the natural form of folic acid. Fortified foods like bread, cereal, rice, and pasta also contain folate. You can tell that a food is fortified because the word enriched will be on the packaging. Because of FDA regulations, enriched foods needed to have folic acid as a way to lower the risk of defects in newborns. This is why, with a balanced diet, a person should not need to find other sources to get folate.


Folic acid supplements that are less than 1,000 micrograms are usually non-prescription so you can get them at most stores that sell over-the-counter supplements. Folic acid supplements that are over 1,000 micrograms are prescription-only. Talking to a doctor is necessary to get a high dosage of folic acid.


In general, taking folic acid is not necessary if you maintain a balanced diet eating foods with high folate. Folic acid is a beneficial supplement to take especially when pregnant. The recommended folic acid intake is 400 micrograms daily. A person should not take more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid unless prescribed by a doctor. It is always a good idea to consult a doctor before taking any new supplements, especially if you have any chronic medical conditions. 

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