08 July, 2011
Does Folic Acid Help Neuropathy in Feet?
Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by your body's inability to use glucose properly. It can affect virtually every organ in your body. Over time, nerves providing sensation to your hands and feet can be affected by a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Currently, there is no cure for diabetes or peripheral neuropathy. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, one of the eight B vitamins. Folic acid may alleviate symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in diabetics, although more studies are needed.
Diabetic neuropathy occurs as a result of nerve damage; it can be caused by long-standing diabetes, poor control of blood glucose levels, vascular damage to the nerves because of decreased blood supply, and inflammation of the nerves. Diabetic neuropathy, also referred to as peripheral neuropathy, typically affects the feet and toes, causing burning pain, pins-and-needles feeling, and numbness. Symptoms often worsen at night. Diagnosis is made by your physician via a series of neurological tests. There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but keeping your blood sugar under control helps.
Folic acid is the more stable form of folate found in dietary supplements and added to vitamin-fortified foods. Folic acid performs a number of functions, including DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation and metabolism of the amino acid methionine from homocysteine. Although rare, a deficiency of folic acid decreases the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract, and usually results from a disorder, such as alcoholism or malabsorption syndrome. Interestingly, the Office of Dietary Supplements states the diabetic medication metformin can interfere with your body's ability to use folic acid, which may have an impact on diabetic neuropathy.
Folic Acid and Homocysteine Levels
Your body requires adequate levels of folic acid to synthesize the amino acid methionine from homocysteine. When folic acid is lacking, methionine is not produced and your levels of homocysteine rise. A 2001 clinical study published in the medical journal "Diabetic Medicine" found a correlation between elevated levels of homocysteine and the development of diabetic neuropathy symptoms in patients with Type 2 diabetes. More studies are needed, but if homocysteine levels are high as a result of folic acid deficiency, folic acid could prove a beneficial treatment for diabetic neuropathy.
Folic Acid For Diabetic Neuropathy
A deficiency in folic acid may have an impact on developing the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. As a diabetic, you should never self-treat peripheral neuropathy. According to Oregon State University, to maintain normal levels, adults require 400 mcg to 600 mcg of folic acid per day. Foods that contain folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid, include orange juice, spinach, asparagus, garbanzo beans, lima beans and lentils. Some foods, including breakfast cereals, bread and pasta, are fortified with folic acid. Consult your doctor before taking folic acid supplements for diabetic neuropathy.
- National Diabetes Clearinghouse Information: Diabetic Neuropathy; February 2009
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Diabetic Neuropathy; September 2008
- Oregon State University: Folic Acid; May 2011
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Folate
- Diabetic Medicine: "Relation Between Homocysteinaemia and Diabetic Neuropathy in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus"; A. Ambroche et al.; 2001
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