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Folate for Healthy Blood Cells

February 17, 2016 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Folate is a B vitamin that’s essential for helping you create the new cells your body needs every day. It also helps build the red blood cells you need to prevent anemia, and protects your DNA against the mutations that can lead to a long list of diseases and devastating outcomes: cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardio and gastro threats, cognitive decline, depression.

It’s a tough job, but folate is more than up to it.

Folate is already a perennial hall of fame vitamin for its remarkably effective role in preventing birth defects.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Essential for everyone

The red blood cells that folate helps to create are urgently on call every second of your life. They carry oxygen to—and remove carbon dioxide from— every part of your body

Without folate?

Game over.

With insufficient folate?

Well, you’re still in the game, but you lose some of folate’s additional life-sustaining processes, like these:

  • Folate protects you against heart disease by teaming up with vitamin B12 as a coenzyme to control homocysteine—even a moderate amount of which can triple your risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • It helps increase the breakdown of triglycerides and may therefore have a role in preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • In a 2005 study at the University of California at Irvine, men and women (ages 60 and up) who regularly consumed the 400 mcg recommended daily allowance cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by more than 50 percent.
  • Depression has been linked to insufficient folate, as has poor response to antidepressant treatment. Folate supplements have been used to enhance response to antidepressants.

In addition to these wonderful preventions and protections, many cognitive, cardio, and other unwelcome symptoms have been linked to a folate deficiency.

When folate is present in sufficient amounts, life can be beautiful for everybody.

Are you getting enough folate?

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Symptoms of anemia caused by folate deficiency include:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Pale skin
  • Tender tongue
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea

Indeed, I’ve seen a disheartening increase in the number of folate-deficient patients. It used to be 10 percent. Now it’s 30 percent and more.

I blame the increase in the unavoidable environmental contaminants we ingest every day . Our air and water are full of things that shouldn’t be there—pesticide and drug residues, and a long list of chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. Finding and fighting off these pollutants puts tremendous stress on every organ in your body, leaving you vulnerable to threats like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, for example, that never even used to exist.

I do a folate workup for every new patient these days—part of my routine bloodwork. I recommend you get your doctor to do the same for you.

If you’re folate-deficient, some lifestyle changes are likely all you need to feel like a new person. Changing bad habits, like smoking, drinking, social isolation, and lack of exercise are always on the must-change list, of course. You don’t need me to tell you that.

Starting some good new habits are also a must.

How to keep the folate flowing

Best way to keep the folate tank topped up?

Food.

As always, nature gives us a banquet of delicious choices. Go for dark, leafy greens (spinach and kale), asparagus, fortified whole grains (100% natural grain cereals and 100% whole grain breads), citrus and other fruits, eggs, pork, liver, beans and legumes (peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans).

That’s just a partial list—a feast of folate-rich healthy eating awaits. As always, make sure whatever you eat is organic, fresh, local, and never genetically modified.

For a supplement, I recommend one made with methylated folate, B6, and B12. Methylation is a chemical process that ensures these vitamins are easily absorbed and used by your body.

I recommend 400 mcg of the methylated formula daily. But check with your doctor before taking any supplement or making any significant changes in your diet or other lifestyle behaviors.

References

  1. Are you getting enough of this B vitamin? http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/supplements/folic-acid
  2. Anemia of folate deficiency. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/hematology_and_blood_disorders/anemia_of_folate_deficiency_85,P00089/
  3. Bueno, O., Molloy, A.M.et al. (2015, November 11). Common polymorphisms that affect folate transport or metabolism modify the effect of the MTFHR 677C > T polymorphism on folate status. Journal of Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26561410
  4. (2011, October 1). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/folate/NS_patient-folate
  5. Folate Deficiency. (2011, August 24). National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000354.htm
  6. http://www.newportnaturalhealth.com/2014/10/control-homocysteine-a-heart-health-indicator-with-b-vitamins/Control Homocysteine, a Heart Health Indicator, with B Vitamins

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