08 March 2004

---the Wonders of Folate

Another good news.

According to a federal study presented March 5 at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease, Epidemiology and Prevention in San Francisco, folic acid found in enriched grain products may be helping to reduce stroke deaths in the United States.

Folic acid is a water soluble B-vitamin that helps build healthy cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Past studies also reveal that it provides protection against certain heart conditions. Adults and children need folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia.

A diet rich in folate is important, but the average diet does not supply enough folic acid. Good dietary sources are cereals, grains, cooked lentils, spinach, beans, asparagus, chicken and beef liver. The 1998 RDAs for folate are expressed in a term called the Dietary Folate Equivalent. The Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE) for every person is 400mcg and becomes 500-600mcg for pregnant and lactating women.

Signs of folic acid deficiency are often subtle and often include diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss can occur. Additional signs are weakness, sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations, irritability, and behavioral disorders.

Several years ago folate was added to grain products after studies showed conclusively that the vitamin helps prevent spina bifida, a disabling birth defect. Since the requirement took effect, US spina bifida cases have fallen 20 percent. I do not have local data here in Manila but I think it is also within this range.

Now, the new analysis estimates that 48,000 fewer deaths from heart attack and stroke each year also may be attributable to the policy, CDC epidemiologist Quanhe Yang said at an American Heart Association conference in San Francisco.

Hooray for folate!

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