Folic acid, whose term in the official IUPAC nomenclature is: acid (S) -2- (4 – ((2-amino-4-hydroxypteridin-6-yl) methylamino) benzamido) pentanedioico, also known as pteroilic acid L-glutamic acid, vitamin B9, vitamin M or folacin, takes its name from the Latin folium (leaf).
Folic acid was discovered in 1939 following a series of studies related to the therapy of an artificially induced form of anemia in chickens.
It was first isolated from the liver and vegetables, and was called “Wills factor” from the name of its discoverer (Lucy Wills).
Only later was it identified chemically and it was discovered that it represented a growth factor for the development of some microorganisms in some culture media.
Folic acid, in nature, is present in foods such as: oranges, liver, legumes, brewer’s yeast, rice, green leafy vegetables (in fact the term “Folate”, its component, derives from foliage), eggs and one a good part is lost by cooking food.
The following are the average quantities of folic acid in some foods (in μg / 100g):
– Large leaf lettuce: 1700;
– Corn flakes, wheat germ, soy, brewer’s yeast: 1500 – 1200;
– Chicken liver: 800;
– Muesli: 650;
– Beef liver: 560;
– Bran flakes, corn: 550 – 400;
– Egg yolk: 320 – 200;
– Boiled spinach, zucchini: 290 – 180;
– Brussels sprouts: 270;
– Red beets: 260;
– Dried mushrooms: 250;
– Asparagus, broccoli, artichokes: 240 – 180;
– Boiled potatoes: 90;
– Canned tomato: 70;
– Oranges: 60;
– Beans: 50;
– Chocolate: 40;
– Broad beans, lentils: 50 – 40.
Folic acid, as such, is not active, but is the precursor of the active form which is tetrahydrofolate; for this reason it should be classified as a prodrug.
Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin of group B, necessary for all DNA synthesis, repair and methylation reactions; for the metabolism of homocysteine (remethylation) and other important biochemical reactions, especially where intense periods of cell division are involved in cases of rapid growth. This is why both children and adults need folic acid to normally produce red blood cells and prevent forms of anemia.
Folic acid, for this reason, is fundamental for the metabolism of phospholipids and certain amino acids and for the maturation of red blood cells, for the correct development of the nervous system in the embryonic phase and therefore for the neuropsychic health of the person. Its lack can cause anemia (called Megaloblastic), developmental slowing, neurological problems, stress, irritability, anxiety, upsetting mood, memory impairment, fatigue, obtundation and mental deterioration.
Folic acid is a compound more stable to heat than folates that are present in food and this is why it is used in many countries to fortify food flours.
This procedure consists of the addition of folic acid in food flours; the fortification has reduced the incidence of neonatal malformations, particularly those affecting the central nervous system such as neural tube dysfunctions (NTDs), other types of cranial malformations and cardiac malformations in an absolutely certain and extremely marked manner.
It is difficult to experience health problems due to an excess of folic acid, as the quantities beyond the limits present in the body are soon expelled through the urine.
However, there may be some cases of overdose revealed by symptoms such as the appearance of tremors, unprovoked nervousness, allergic reactions and acceleration of heart beats. High doses of folic acid in the blood could cause kidney problems, but even this is a very remote possibility.
Warning: The information given is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.