Though not everyone likes broccoli or kale, everyone should at least be looking for ways to get more folic acid in their diet. That’s the consensus of many medical experts, as well as the staff at Accredited Home Care, which encourages clients of any age living in the La Jolla area to make sure they’re getting an adequate amount of folic acid in their diet.
Luckily, today, there’s plenty of ways to get this mineral into your system, starting with leafy greens like broccoli, kale, spinach or romaine lettuce. As healthy as some of these ‘superfoods’ are, some people simply don’t care for their taste or texture.
So that’s why it’s possible today to get adequate amounts of folic acid and other useful minerals from dietary supplements and even some fortified beverages and foods such as grains and cereals.
How much folic acid varies by individual, and too much may even cause harm to seniors, at least according to a recent study from UC Davis.
Excessively high levels of folic acid may trigger or aggravate metabolic imbalances that sometimes are initially related to a deficiency of vitamin B-12, which could lead to anemia or even neurological damage. Researchers studied 1,535 California residents age 60 or older and found that subjects with lower levels of folic acid and vitamin B-12 were fine, but then the ratios changed if folic acid amounts grew high.
The study recommended that people concerned about folic acid intake should talk to their health provider, since, because it’s easier to find it in fortified food, people may not need to go out of their way to consume large quantities of it.
Folic acid is beneficial in low to average amounts, which is why doctors encourage all ages to make sure they include in their diet.
In seniors, it’s linked to improved memories, something that we all want more of. A Dutch study of adults age 50-70 over three years showed that those who had more folic acid in their diet showed a slower decline in mental skills and muscle speed skills. In some patients in the study, scores on memory tests were similar to people five years younger, and muscle skills and information processing test results were similar to someone two years younger.
Other Ways to Increase Folic Acid Consumption
To increase education and interest in folic acid, the CDC and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network have declared Jan. 7-13 to be Folic Acid Awareness Week. This effort encourages people of all ages and genders to find regular sources of folic acid or synthetic folic acid in their diets.
- Flour or foods with flour (cookies, crackers, breads)
- Some organ meats, such as kidney or liver
- Dark leafy greens
- Fruits like melon or bananas
For seniors, some medical professional suggest doubling the amount they may have been eating earlier in their life, which in some, could be about 800 micrograms. This was the level that was given to seniors in the Dutch memory study.
This and other studies also showed that excessively high levels may contribute to other health conditions, such as increased risk of stroke or mental decline, but general levels can benefit health.
However, there are some conditions that reduce folic acid levels, such as cancer or alcoholism.
Research is also continuing into the role of folic acid in senior health, trying to find the right balance between too little and too much.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, gathered information about that shows quantities of folic acid can play a role in overall mood and social function.
Studies show that a decline in folic acid may be connected to an increase in depression and dementia. It is believed that a lack of folic acid and contribute to general brain deterioration, and may even increase the risk of dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. But increasing low levels can quickly show an increase in alertness, mood, sociability and other positive factors.
Experts also recommend using caution when setting folic acid levels in patients who have epilepsy or B-12 deficiencies, since they all can be aggravated.
Finding the right balance between too much and too little can be confusing, but La Jolla-area residents are encouraged to discuss with their health provider.
Home health care professionals such as Accredited Home Care are happy to assist in observing clients and making sure they’re consuming proper amounts, whether it’s in their food or supplements.