Folate and Health - Your Questions and Our Answers
1. Could you briefly summarize the benefits derived from folic acid (folate)?
Folate ( Folacin or folic acid) is a very important vitamin. It can help prevent a wide range of health problems such as heart disease, bowel cancer, Neutral Tube Defects, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Diabetes.
A deficiency also results in poor growth, megaloblastic anaemia and other blood disorders. If you are anaemic then you will be tired and find it difficult to work and play. Without blood tests it is not possible to know if you are deficient in Folate, B12 iron or a combination.
2. Should pregnant women take a folate supplement or is a well-balanced diet enough to ensure they're receiving an adequate amount of folic acid?
Pregnant women require 400ug while men and women require only 200ug. It can be difficult to ensure that this all comes from diet. Because of the possibility of Listeria infections, women are more restricted these days in what they can choose to eat. Folate is water soluble and easily lost in cooking water, it is destroyed by heat, air and alkaline conditions. Fruit and vegetables are good sources of Folate but it can be easily destroyed by prolong or poor storage and prolonged cooking. It is wise to have an extra supplement but it is still important to emphasis diet.
3. Folate deficiency is now associated with bowel cancer and heart
disease etc. but is there any outward indicators that a person might not be receiving the recommended dietary intake?
If people have numerous polyps during routine checks or they have an elevated cholesterol level, they could be concern.
We know that plasma Homocysteine levels are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Less than 15umol/l is desirable. As the levels of Homocysteine increase, so does the risk. If someone has high cholesterol levels, they can ask to have their Homocysteine levels checked.
Regular bowel checkups can guard against cancer. Optimum levels of Folate can help reduce polyps classified as adenomas. They are precursors to bowel cancer.
Anyone with a high risk of heart disease or cancer would benefit from a diet rich in Folate foods.
4. What role does Folate plays in preventing bowel cancer?
Folate helps to decrease the growth of polys that can lead to bowel cancer. A high fibre, low fat diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is important in reducing gene damage, particularly with age.
The cells lining the inside of the bowel are constantly dying and being replaced. A cancer starts to arise when genes in these cells become damaged and this process of renewal goes wrong. These abnormal cells can form a growth, or polyp, which may
later develop into cancer
5. Given the fragile nature of Folate (its sensitivity to heat etc.), can people feel reasonably assured of getting the recommended dietary intake eating a well-balanced diet? For example, is a very edible piece of fruit that has been stored at room temperature still a good source of Folate?
There can be a problem if food is kept too long t room temperature. It is important to buy fresh food from a store with a good turn over where the temperatures are kept low. Fruit and vegetables must then be transported quickly using a refrigerated container if possible and immediately refrigerated again. They should then be eaten with out due delay. If these simple rules are followed, then fresh fruit and vegetables should supply the requirements.
6. What food would be recommend as a good source of Folate?
Spinach. An excellent salad combines chick peas, spinach and oranges. It gives 450 micrograms of Folate in one serve. If we ate this everyday, we would not need supplements. This salad has more than a daily requirement of Folate
An adequate intake of folate can be achieved from a well balanced diet. Bran, cereals and cereal fortified with folate, wholegrain bread, red meat, dark green vegetables, beans and lentils are good sources of folate. Liver, pate and lambs fry are excellent sources but must be avoided in pregnancy because of their high vitamin A level. It all comes back to eat well and enjoy healthy food.