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What are health benefits of folate?

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Adequate folate intake helps prevent neural tube defects and reduces the incidences of other birth defects as well as premature birth, according to the National Institutes of Health. Folate in its natural form may also lower the risk of various types of cancers.

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Additionally, a combination of folate and other B vitamins can help prevent stroke. Individuals with sufficient folate in their system may also be less prone to depression or respond better to antidepressant drugs, suggests the National Institutes of Health.

Folate deficiency can change the color of an individual's skin, hair and fingernails, and it can cause open sores inside the mouth. Individuals who do not get enough folate may also develop a disorder called megaloblastic anemia, which results in symptoms such as tiredness, concentration issues, headaches, heart palpitations and breathing difficulties, states the National Institutes of Health.

Folate occurs naturally in a variety of foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and peas. It is safe to freely consume folate through these sources, advises the National Institutes of Health. There is also a form of folate that companies use in vitamin supplements and fortified foods, which is otherwise known as folic acid. Individuals should practice caution if they consume folic acid, as excessive intake may increase the risk of certain types of cancers or camouflage a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which can lead to serious and permanent health consequences.

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