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January 5th through 11th is Folic Acid Awareness Week. Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is necessary for healthy cell growth. It is also known as folate. This water-soluble vitamin occurs naturally in yeast extract, leafy green vegetables, dried beans and peas, and liver. It is also an added ingredient in fortified cereals and other enriched food products such as bread, flour, and pasta.
The intention of Folic Acid Awareness Week is to remind pregnant and child-bearing-age women of the importance of folic acid in their diet. Folic acid has been proven to prevent birth defects, specifically neural tube defects that occur in the brain and spine. The need for folic acid doesn’t stop there, though. Children and adults alike continue to need folic acid in their regular diet to generate red blood cells and DNA.
Some potential health benefits of folic intake include reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer. There are also studies that claim the correct folic acid intake may prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In 2005, Dutch researchers found in a study of older adults that those taking folic acid supplements showed memory improvements and a slower decline in mental skills and muscle speed, compared to a placebo group.
In the past, some researchers have suggested that increasing your consumption of folic acid might increase the risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies, which are harmful to aging adults. In its September 2019 publication, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a lack of historical evidence to support those claims. Even so, B-vitamins are necessary for all people, including aging adults. Talk to your health care providers about your diet and the supplements you take, as a whole. According to research from Tufts University, twenty-five percent of people over age 65 don’t get enough vitamin B12, which is critical for brain and neurological system function as well as the production of red blood cells. Some symptoms of a B12 deficiency include dementia and anemia. Even a mild B12 deficiency can cause cognitive decline. Since cognitive decline is often mistaken for normal aging, it’s important to routinely ask you healthcare provider to check for anemia and vitamin deficiencies. B12 is not naturally produced in our bodies and must come from the foods we eat or a supplement.
Proper nutrition in the form of a balanced diet is the best way to provide your body with proper nourishment. If that is no longer a realistic option for you, ask your doctor and/or nutritionist to help find the right balance of foods and supplements that best promotes your health and well-being. Even though the purpose of this health awareness week is intended for pregnant or child-bearing-age women, we can use it as an opportunity to evaluate our intake of all necessary vitamins and minerals.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.