Folic acid is a man-made compound added to many foods and supplements that preforms the same as folate(Vitamin B9) once it is consumed. Folic acid is a water-soluble compound that needs to be consumed each day since it is removed from the body regularly in urine. Because of this, Folic acid does not stay in the body very long. Folic acid is found in a large variety of healthy foods including broccoli, peas, brown rice, oranges and bananas as well as most leafy green vegetables. Folic acid has many functions inside the body, and is a vital vitamin during early pregnancy. The recommended daily requirement of Folic acid is .2mg for adults, and .4mg for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near future.
One of the most important functions of Folic acid is it´s involvment with cell division and DNA replication. Folic acid is vital when a cell divides, and a deficiency of Folic acid will lead to DNA replication errors that will cause cell death or cancer. The importance of Folic acid to cellular division is most notable in cells that divide or form rapidly, such as red blood cells. One of the most notable symptoms of a Folic acid deficiency is anemia. This occurs because the cellular division that leads to properly formed red blood cells is limited in the absence of sufficient Folic acid.
Folic acid is most closely associated with pregnany. In the very early stages of fetal formation, folic acid is vital for proper development. A deficiency of folic acid results in spina bifida, a condition where the spinal chord of the fetus does not close. This occurs very early in fetal development, which is why any woman who plans on becoming pregnant should begin taking folic acid supplements. Often times, the effects of the deficiency of folic acid occur to the fetus before the woman even knows she is pregnant. Spina Bifida has been called the most preventable condition on the planet, especially in third world countries, where poor nutrition results in high percentages of spina bifida cases.
Folic acid is an essential vitamin that is important in a number of systems of the body. Most notably it is important in fetal development and cellular division. Folic acid is readily available in a large number of foods that a person should be eating normally. In the absence of a healthy diet, folic acid is a cheap supplement that is added to many foods including most breakfast cereals. Women of birthing age should pay special attention to folic acid intake as it is an easy prevention to a very serious birth defect.