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Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia

Overview :

Folic acid is necessary for growth and cellular repair, since it is a critical component of DNA and RNA as well as essential for the formation and maturation of red blood cells. Folic acid deficiency is one of the most common of all vitamin deficiencies. Although it occurs in both males and females, folic acid deficiency anemia most often affects women over age 30. It becomes increasingly common as age impedes the body's ability to absorb folic acid, a water-soluble vitamin that is manufactured by intestinal bacteria and stored for a short time in the liver. Folic acid deficiency has also been implicated as a cause of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. Recent research has shown that adequate amounts of folic acid can prevent up to one-half of these birth defects, if women start taking folic acid supplements shortly before conception. Research from China in 2004 showed that women who were low in B vitamins and folate before conception, though not technically anemic, still had increased risk of lower birth weight babies and adverse pregnancy outcome.

A healthy adult needs at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day. Requirements at least double during pregnancy, and increase by 50% when a woman is breast-feeding. The average American diet, high in fats, sugar, and white flour, provides about 200 mcg of folic acid, approximately the amount needed to maintain tissue stores of the substance for six to nine months before a deficiency develops. Most of the folic acid in foods (with the exception of the folic acid added to enriched flour and breakfast cereals) occurs as folate. Folate is only about pne-half as available for the body to use as is the folic acid in pills and supplements. Folate also is easily destroyed by sunlight, overcooking, or the storing of foods at room temperature for an extended period of time.

Good dietary sources of folate include:

  • leafy green vegetables
  • liver
  • mushrooms
  • oatmeal
  • peanut butter
  • red beans
  • soy
  • wheat germ

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