Benefits of Folic Acid

While folic acid is primarily used for preventing problems during pregnancy, there may be other benefits that are not as well known. Folic acid appears to be effective for lowering homocysteine levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and blood clots. There may also be some folic acid benefits for methotrexate toxicity.

Folic Acid Benefits: An Overview

Folic acid is a vitamin (it is also known as vitamin B9). Although most people are aware of the benefits of folic acid for pregnant women, there are several other important uses for this vitamin as well. This article will discuss the possible folic acid benefits for the following uses:
 
  • Pregnancy
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia
  • Methotrexate toxicity.
     
Benefits of Folic Acid During Pregnancy
It has long been known that an adequate intake of folic acid during (and before) pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. It is most important to get enough folic acid just before pregnancy and during early pregnancy. Since many pregnancies are unplanned, all women of reproductive age should either take folic acid supplements (often through a multivitamin) or make sure they get enough folate through their diet.
 
More recently, there has been much interest in using high doses of folic acid in women with recurring miscarriages, especially due to a few different specific conditions (see Folic Acid and Pregnancy for more information).
 
Benefits for Folic Acid Deficiency
Although folic acid deficiency is not common in healthy people, there are some conditions or situations that can increase the risk of a deficiency. People who chronically abuse alcohol have a higher risk for folic acid deficiency, as do people with liver disease or people undergoing kidney dialysis. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have a higher need for folic acid than most, and if dietary (or supplement) intake of folic acid is not enough, a deficiency may occur. Also, people with problems of the digestive tract that interfere with the absorption of nutrients and vitamins can lead to a deficiency. Some medications may also cause a person to become deficient in folic acid.
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