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What is Folate (Vitamin B9) and How Can It Benefit My Health?

Vitamin B9 or folate is an important nutrient and coenzyme that supports a large variety of biological processes upon which good health and proper brain function depend. Because the benefits of folate affect the formation of the human body at a cellular level, it is especially important for there to be plentiful supplies during gestation and early pregnancy.

Folate can be found in many fruits and veggies in the produce section and is also available in a stable supplement form called folic acid. A plentiful supply of folate in the regular diet is the best defense against the various consequences of folate deficiency. Those suffering from conditions of the small intestines and other malabsorption symptoms are at a greater risk of insufficient folate intake.

Some symptoms of folate deficiency include:

  • Reduced immune system efficiency and lowered resistance to disease

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Conditions of the gastrointestinal tract

  • Anemia

  • Open sores on the mouth, lips, and tongue

  • Moodiness, depression, or irritability

  • Pale skin

  • Gray hair

 width= Benefits of Folate for Brain Optimization

Folate allows the body to build and maintain cells. It also allows for the biosynthesis of chemical communicators of the nervous system and brain. Folic acid also plays an essential role in the synthesis and chemical actions of DNA and RNA which hold the code of human life. When folate supplies are low, cognitive function is one of the first to suffer.

Here is all you need to know about how folate supports a healthy brain and body:

Synthesis of RNA and DNA

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the ultimate book of instructions for running and operating the human body properly. There is a copy held in every cell of the body which dictates the cells function. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, functions like the messenger between the DNA codex and the executives within the cell itself. It keeps all cellular action on point with what a healthy body needs. 1

Without the functions of DNA and RNA, the organism will die. But even the absence of an important nutrient like folate acid can hamper the creation and maintenance of this important command code. Folate keeps the structure of DNA strong and resilient through time. Lack of energy and reduced cognitive efficiency may be the first symptoms of folate deficiency. 2

Supports Gene Expression  width=

When the commands and directives stored in DNA are carried out through the messenger RNA, the process of gene expression can be completed effectively. Gene expression is the biological process in which a cell performs its important function, such as producing a protein or some other molecule.

The instructions for what exactly will be produced in the cellular factory must be transferred from the command station in the cell’s nucleus. This begins with a healthy DNA which will be copied into the RNA messenger and dispatched to protein production plants, called ribosomes. In the ribosome, the messenger RNA will be translated and the directions of the DNA carried out to produce a protein.

Well-supplied gene expression results in a top-quality protein piping-hot off the ribosome assembly line. Proteins can then carry out the actions of cells, like reparations, maintenance, divisions, and important contributions to the body as a whole. 3

For example, the protein hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to cells of all types. Hemoglobin is the product of stem cells located in the bones. Gene expression is what allows a healthy stem cell to produce hundreds of hemoglobin proteins each second. Of course, none of this would be possible without folate that maintains the structural integrity of DNA strands and contributes to the synthesis and action of the RNA messenger. 4

Biosynthesis and Metabolism of Amino Acids

Through the promotion of healthy gene expression, folate affects the production and metabolism of amino acids within the cells of the body.

Amino acids are taken from proteins and used to build new proteins as per the instructions in the DNA. This is the reason why proteins and amino acids have been called the building blocks of life. While the body itself is capable of producing some amino acids and proteins, others must be derived from plant and animal sources and processed into the compounds needed for life.

Amino acids produced in the body have an important role in health and proper function. Two very important amino acids are alanine and histidine. Alanine removes toxins from muscles and histidine is needed to produce white blood cells which fight diseases.

Glutamine and taurine are both important to keep a properly functioning brain with superior communication between neurons. Amino acids are created within the cells as needed as long as supplies of proteins and other essential amino acids exist. Make sure you include a side of folate to ensure these vital nutrients are effectively processed and used in the body. 5

 width= Myelin Synthesis and Repair

Information and messages passing through the nervous system are carried instantaneously through a network of nerves that reach every part of the body. Because many of these nerve cells will be passing with an electrical charge, they are wrapped in an insulating white tissue that improves nerve conditions and the speed of transmissions. This fatty white insulation is called myelin and is the white matter that exists in the brain and throughout the nervous system.

When myelin is kept in excellent conditions, information and messages can be sent more efficiently. Myelin is mostly made of water and fatty tissues but contains an important amount of proteins that work to properly maintain and synthesize more myelin tissues as needed. 6

Folate plays an important role in keeping myelin well supplied with these proteins. Folate deficiency has been closely linked to poor quality myelin and the cognitive interruption that can ensue. 7

Mood Booster Synthesis of Neurotransmitters

The functions of the brain, the way we feel about ourselves, and our energy levels are greatly affected by the chemical balances of the brain. There are chemicals that are stimulating the brain to a higher function while others counter this effect and promote relaxation. The proper balance of these neurochemicals leads to high amounts of focus and enhanced mental output.

By the same measure, if some chemical communicators are lacking, work can be difficult, stress unbearable, and the whole world may seem a little gloomy. 8 Folate is an essential nutrient for the biosynthesis of the monoamine line of neurotransmitters, which includes dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.

Dopamine plays a key role in the motivation and satisfaction that can be derived from the activities you set your mind to. Low dopamine levels of the brain are associated with attention difficulty and impulsive behavior.

Serotonin affects the memory and learning centers of the mind and helps to dampen the nervous response. Serotonin is also an important part of many medical treatments for fighting depression and anxiety.

Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, helps the brain and body in times of stress by keeping the blood filled with oxygen and the brain ready for quick thinking. Adrenal deficiencies can lead to conditions of chronic fatigue.

Since folate contains an important metabolite that allows for the production of these neurotransmitters to be produced, it promotes a balanced chemical profile in the brain. This effect is so profound that folate can function as an effective antidepressant. 9

Folic Acid vs. Folate  width=

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 and is abundant in leafy veggies and fruits. Folic acid is the stable form of folate and can be found in many supplements and fortified foods like pasta and other grain products.

Folic acid is readily absorbed into the body, but some argue that folate is more bioavailable. This means more of it can be absorbed and applied in a single dose.

Risks and Precautions of Folate

Folate as ingested through natural sources is safe in all amounts. Supplementation of folic acid is also considered likely safe in doses between 400 mg and 600 mg.

Nursing women or women planning to become pregnant are encouraged to take the minimum amount of folate to ensure healthy development and reduce the likelihood of miscarriage. Be sure to speak to your medical provider for specific advice on your situation before you start taking folate.

Extra high amounts of folic acid, in excess of 1200 mg daily, could possibly increase the risk of heart conditions and certain types of cancers. Be sure to speak with a qualified medical professional before beginning supplementation if you have any health conditions. 10

Final notes on Folate for Brain Health

Keeping the body well supplied with folate is vital down to the very code of life that dictates our biological functions at a cellular level. Including folate-rich foods in the regular diet is the best way to avoid the complications that come from folate deficiencies.

PhotoCredits: Triff/, GiroScience/, bestbrk/, EvanLorne/, EkaterinaMarkelova/

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