Maybe you or a mom-to-be in your life was told to increase folic acid while pregnant. It wasn’t too hard to up the dose, even if the reasons given may not have gone further than “it’s good for you and for the baby.”
It turns out that this advice isn’t just great for pregnant women, but people of any age living in Coronado or elsewhere looking to improve their general health, including those receiving home health care.
The team at Accredited Home Care also agrees that taking folic acid can be valuable to many seniors, although we suggest checking with your health care provider first before adding a new mineral into your life or your current medication/supplement regimen. In some cases or with some existing health conditions, the possible benefits of more folic acid may not be worth the potential harm it can cause.
Learning all about folate and folic acid are good first steps in figuring out whether to bring more of it into your life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, folic acid is a form of a B vitamin that our body uses for basic processes such as cell generation and growth of things like fingernails and toenails. During pregnancy, not having enough folic acid could lead to deformities, birth defects, incomplete brain growth, and other spinal cord difficulties such as spina bifida.
That’s why women of reproductive age are encouraged to take at least 400 mcg daily, and as much as 4,000 mcg when pregnant or for those planning to be pregnant in the next few months.
The dosage doesn’t mean you have to go crazy with supplements either. In many cases, you can get your daily recommended amounts in certain vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, and kale. It can also be found in some organ meats as well as some melons.
Because the medical community has concluded that folic acid can be a critical ingredient for every age, it also has added to “fortified” brands of bread, pasta, flours, and other whole-grain products. Even basic multivitamins have this type of Vitamin B in them.
Options for seniors
Many seniors can benefit from having regular amounts of folic acid, which can be in their diet, part of their supplements, or in larger prescribed quantities. For instance, a provider may encourage his or her patient to take more to recover from a folic acid deficiency or from certain forms of anemia that are related to low amounts of folic acid.
Other uses are more complicated.
One Dutch study in 2005 concluded that regular folic acid intake boosted memory, cognition, mental skills, and muscle speed skills. More than 800 participants were followed for three years and all showed improvements in all areas, especially memory, and a slower decline for some of the other progressive conditions.
However, other controlled studies, including some in the U.S., have not been able to duplicate these results. This has caused the Mayo Clinic to say that there may not be a direct link between more folic acid and better memory. Although some people may show benefits, others don’t.
Studies have shown that the converse can be true though: a lack of folic acid can lead to memory problems and other negative health conditions, which sometimes can be reversed by more folic acid.
Another possible complication is the interaction with Vitamin B-12 in seniors. One study showed that seniors taking higher levels of folic acid may lower the amount of Vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to other health problems. It is also much more common than folic acid deficiency due to how many ways folic acid can be found in most people’s diets.
High amounts of folic acid can also be harmful to people with kidney issues.
Even if it may not help seniors with their memory, some studies show that folic acid can produce other benefits, including better moods and better social functioning.
Due to all of these possible interactions, talking to your provider about more or less folic acid is vital.
Research is ongoing into the areas of memory and the effects that various minerals can have on the mind and body, which is why trying to stay informed is useful.
Another resource is the FDA which is a sponsor of National Folic Acid Awareness Week. The first week of the year offers an annual opportunity to learn more about the role that folic acid can play along with the challenges that can happen when there isn’t enough of it.
Although this year’s event has come and gone, the site remains a useful resource all year long. Much of it is geared to expectant mothers or those interested in being pregnant in the future.
But there is also information about how people of all ages can make sure they are including folic acid in their diets and supplements.