Folic acid has been known for its many benefits for young and old alike. It is considered one of the essential vitamins needed by our body to maintain good cell production and metabolism. However, Folic acid is not naturally produced by our body, instead, we get it through the food that we eat.
That’s the reason why about 40 percent of the population in the US is deficient in folic acid.
As for seniors, getting enough dosage of folic acid benefits one's brain function and blood health. Learn more about folic acid, its benefits, dosage, and side effects through this article.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid, also known as folate, or folacin, is a type of vitamin B that plays a vital role in metabolism, cell production, and cell growth. Though folate and folic acid share the same effects and function, there is a specific difference between the two.
While folate is a naturally occurring vitamin usually found in certain foods, folic acid is the man-made version of this vitamin which is used in making dietary supplements. Despite the difference, folate and folic acid still share common benefits.
Benefits of Folic Acid to Seniors
Folic acid is crucial in children’s growth, but studies also found that this vitamin offers many benefits to seniors. The following are the benefits that seniors can reap from folic acid.
- Reduces risk of anemia - Anemia is a disease characterized by inadequate production of red blood cells. A daily dose of folic acid may help address this problem by helping the body produce enough red blood cells to fight off anemia.
- Reduce the risk of Dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s - A study revealed that regular doses of folic acid improved respondents' cognitive function by reducing the body's homocysteine or Hcy and modifying other antioxidant responses.
- Reduce the risk of hearing loss - Hearing loss is one of the most common diseases among seniors. Fortunately, there are several studies that claim regular intake of folic acid can possibly reduce the risk of hearing loss among seniors the same way it does Alzheimer's and other cognitive health problems. In fact, an article stated that folic acid deficiency increases the risk of hearing loss.
- Improve digestion and appetite - As mentioned earlier, folic acid has an essential role in the body's metabolic processes. This includes the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients from the food that we eat. Folate is also proven to regulate one's appetite, which can be helpful to seniors.
- Regulate blood pressure - Several studies also revealed that daily intake of folic acid can reduce high blood pressure. Green leafy vegetables, salads, beans, and legumes are just examples of high sources of folate.
Note: Taking folic acid offers a lot of benefits, however, seniors and caregivers should take note that too much intake of folic acid may cause side effects specifically for seniors who have vitamin B12 deficiency. It’s crucial to talk to your doctor first before you start taking folic acid supplements.
How Much Folic Acid Should Seniors Take?
Folic acid is not naturally produced by the body and considering that seniors absorb vitamins and nutrients less effectively, taking folic acid supplements helps seniors get enough folic acid needed for certain bodily functions.
Adults generally require about 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. As for seniors, it is crucial to meet this daily dosage since their bodies can no longer produce much energy like when they were younger. Folic acid can be taken through a folic acid-rich diet or through dietary supplements.
Which Foods are Rich Sources of Folic Acid?
Since folate or folic acid cannot be naturally produced by our bodies, opting for foods that are rich in this vitamin is a significant step in meeting the recommended daily dose of folic acid. Listed below are foods that are high sources of folic acid.
- Dark green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, etc.
- Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, or lime
- Beans, peas, and legumes
- Poultry, pork, eggs, and shellfish
- Wheat, seeds, and yeast
- Chicken or pork liver and kidneys
- Mushroom and asparagus
- Fortified cereals, bread, and juices
Risks and Side Effects of Taking Folic Acid
Taking folic acid is generally safe and reports of patients who experienced severe side effects are very rare. Allergic reactions related to folic acid intake include the following:
- Disturbance in sleeping patterns
In rare cases, folic acid can cause allergic reactions such as:
- Itching and redness of the skin
- Difficulty breathing
Also, seniors should also take note that the effectiveness of other medications taken may be influenced by folic acid. Some drugs that can interact with folic acid are the following:
- Barbiturates - These are nervous system depressants that may counteract folic acid intake. This will influence the effect of the drug making it less effective against the disease it is supposed to treat.
- Methotrexate - Also known as Trexall. This is a type of medicine to treat cancer and Its effectiveness can be affected by a high dose of folic acid.
- Methotrexate - Also known as Trexall. This is a type of medicine to treat cancer and It's effectiveness can be affected by a high dose of folic acid.
- Pyrimethamine - This drug is also known as Daraprim, an antimalarial drug that may not be as effective if taken with high doses of folic acid.
- Anticonvulsants - These are drugs used to treat symptoms of epilepsy, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder. Anticonvulsants are known as mood stabilizers that's why they are widely used for the aforementioned diseases. Examples of these medicines are Fosphenytoin, Phenytoin, and Primidone. However, taking folic acid along with Anticonvulsants may reduce the drug's effectiveness.
Note: Talk to your doctor if you experience the side effects mentioned above or if you have current medications that may interact with folic acid.
Folic acid offers a lot of benefits to people of any age. It plays a vital factor in cell growth and metabolism in younger individuals and reduces the risk of certain diseases among seniors. Although folic acid or folate cannot be produced by our bodies, we can get it through the food that we eat and through taking folic acid supplements. Maintaining good levels of this vitamin is essential, especially for seniors considering that their bodies cannot absorb all the nutrients it needs like they used to.