The body needs folic acid so that cells can divide. The B vitamin is therefore indispensable for growth and healthy development. Pregnant women in particular should make sure they get enough: folic acid supports the healthy development of the embryo.
What is folic acid and what is its role in the body?
Folic acid is the industrially produced form of vitamin folate. Many foods and vitamin supplements are fortified with folic acid. The naturally occurring folate belongs to the group of B vitamins (B9) and is water soluble. What makes the supply of folic acid difficult: Vitamin B9 is sensitive. Light and heat destroy it. Over half of the folate in food is lost during storage and cooking.
The body needs folate compounds for cell division and healthy cell growth. Folic acid is essential for the development of the embryonic nervous system to prevent malformations. In protein metabolism, the B vitamin is responsible for detoxification. It converts cell-damaging homocysteine into the amino acid methionine.
Which foods contain a particularly large amount of folic acid?
Veal liver, green leafy vegetables, lettuce, and green cabbage are good sources of folic acid. Vegetables should be processed as freshly as possible and cooked gently. Industrially heavily processed foods only contain a fraction of folic acid. Choose wholemeal flour over white flour!
Why is folic acid indispensable when trying to have children and during pregnancy?
It is best for women who want to become pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to prevent malformations in the embryo. In the first three months of pregnancy, the requirement increases to 550 micrograms per day. Vitamin B9 supports the healthy development of the embryo. It lowers the risk of abnormal developments in the spinal cord, such as “panacea”. Taking folic acid during pregnancy also reduces the risk of premature birth.
Is an excess of folic acid possible?
The daily requirement of folic acid can be covered by a folate-rich diet. However, the total amount should not exceed 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B9 per day. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends this upper limit for adults. An excess of folate is not considered harmful. But a permanent excessive intake of folic acid, for example through fortified foods or vitamin supplements, can increase the risk of undesirable health effects.