What Does Folic Acid Do?


Quick Answer

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, folic acid plays a vital role in brain development and function and mental and emotional health. Folic acid helps the body produce DNA and RNA, so it is especially important during pregnancy, infancy and adolescence when cells and tissues undergo rapid growth. Pregnant women who do not get enough folic acid are more likely to have babies with birth defects.

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Full Answer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Although folic acid has been proven to reduce birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly, it may have other health benefits as well. As of 2014, additional benefits of folic acid are still being studied, but the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that folic acid may help with heart disease, age-related hearing loss, the development of some forms of cancer, depression and age-related macular degeneration.

According to WebMD, folic acid and folate are forms of the vitamin B-9. Folate occurs naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, mushrooms, bananas and tomato juice. Folic acid is a synthetic form taken as a supplement and has been added to some foods since 1998. Folic acid, like all B vitamins, is water-soluble, meaning the body cannot store it and must replenish its supply on a regular basis.

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