08 July, 2011
Folate is one type of essential B vitamin, and folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is available in fortified foods and as a nutritional supplement. Since folate and folic acid have the same effects in the body, they are often used interchangeably. Folic acid is necessary for the function of many different types of cells, and a deficiency can have detrimental effects on blood clotting.
The effects of folic acid on blood clotting are mediated through the protein homocysteine. A deficiency in folate results in an increase in homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are associated with blood vessel damage and blood clots, which may lead to heart disease. Thus, a deficiency in folate may lead to undesirable blood clots that may lodge in blood vessels and cause reduced blood flow through blood vessels or even a heart attack.
The recommended daily allowance of folate is 400 mcg per day for people over age 14, 600 mcg per day for the pregnant and 500 mcg per day for the breastfeeding. If you are getting less than this amount of folate in your diet, you may have a folate deficiency, which is often associated with anemia, meaning you do not have enough blood cells to adequately deliver oxygen to tissues throughout the body. Anemia is often associated with weakness, fatigue and difficulty catching your breath. To treat a deficiency, either increase your consumption of foods containing folate or take folic acid supplements. Because the body uses dietary folate and supplemental folic acid differently, different amounts of folate versus folic acid are recommended. While it is recommended that most adults get 400 cg per day of dietary folate, this amount equals 240 mcg per day of folic acid.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that you not take more than 1000 mcg per day of folic acid, as excess amount of this vitamin may cause a vitamin B-12 deficiency. In people taking anti-seizure medications, there is a risk that folic acid supplements may cause seizures, so discuss taking these supplements with your doctor before starting a supplement regimen.
Correcting a folate deficiency may prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots, although more scientific studies are needed to show if folic acid supplementation does indeed result in a lower risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that people at risk for heart disease get enough folic acid, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6 to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
- breakfast cereal image by JJAVA from Fotolia.com