What is Folic Acid?
- Folic acid is a nutrient which is part of the family of B vitamins.
- Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health.
- This nutrient is essential for normal functioning of DNA genetic material, repair of damaged DNA genes and it is of particular importance during periods when cells divide and tissue is rapidly growing i.e. infancy, adolescence and pregnancy.
- Folic acid also works in synergy with vitamin B12, to help make red blood cells and helps iron to function correctly in the body.
- Folic acid deficiency can be caused by an unhealthy or unbalanced diet and certain medical conditions can also lead to deficiency including coeliac disease, crohns disease, colitis or even alcoholism. A number of medications can also lead to deficiency e.g. some chemotherapy, arthritis, anti seizure and tetracycline antibiotics.
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include:
shortness of breath, gum infections and tongue inflammation.
Links with Depression
The evidence with regard to folic acid aiding depression is mixed. Some studies have shown that 15-38% of people with depression have low folate levels and those with the lowest levels tend to be most depressed.
One high quality study found that taking 500microgrammes of folic acid daily helped the antidepressant medication Prozac to work better in women, but the benefit was not found for men. Another study found conflicting results using B12 and folic acid supplements with older depressed people.
Food Sources of Folic Acid
Deficiencies of dietary folic acid and diets high in processed foods have been linked with the prevalence of depression. If you suffer from mood disorders, aim to consume a health well balanced diet and try to include several of the foods mentioned below on a daily basis.
Try to incorporate some of the foods listed below, try to eat at least 2 pieces of fruit, 2 different vegetables and some type of salad vegetable every day.
Folic Acid Supplementation
Written by Ellen Roche Consultant Dietitian & Clinical Nutritionist www.nutrivive.ie