Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic Acid Benefits for Hyperhomocysteinemia
Homocysteine is an amino acid normally found in the blood, and hyperhomocysteinemia is an abnormally high level of this amino acid in the blood. Hyperhomocysteinemia may increase the risk of problems such as heart disease, strokes, and blood clots. There has been much interest (and much controversy) in the use of folic acid supplementation to help prevent or treat these problems. While folic acid (especially when combined with certain other B vitamins) is effective for lowering homocysteine levels, it is not clear if this actually lowers the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or blood clots.
Folic Acid Benefits for Methotrexate Toxicity
Methotrexate is a prescription medication used to treat certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. It works by interfering with the ability of cells to use folic acid properly, thus interfering with their ability to grow and divide. Ideally, only cancer cells and other unhealthy cells will be affected, but in reality, healthy cells are also harmed. Sometimes, leucovorin (a specific form of folic acid) is used to "rescue" healthy cells when too much toxicity occurs due to methotrexate.
There is some concern that using folic acid may interfere with the anti-cancer effects of methotrexate. Do not take folic acid with methotrexate unless your healthcare provider specifically recommends that you do so.
Many of the effects of folic acid can be attributed to the two following actions of it:
- DNA and cellular effects -- Folic acid is important for creating new DNA (the genetic material within cells). It also helps prevent errors when DNA is copied (when cells divide) and prevents other types of DNA damage. Although these actions are especially important during pregnancy, they are also important for children and adults. For instance, low folic acid levels can cause anemia by interfering with the normal division and maturation of red blood cells.
- Homocysteine metabolism -- Folic acid helps to break down homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause problems if it builds up to high levels. In particular, high homocysteine levels may contribute to problems such as cardiovascular disease or blood clots.