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Link Between Alzheimer's Disease and Folic Acid

A new study published in the Archives of Neurology gives further credence to the belief that diets high in folic acid (folate) may be associated with a lower risk of Alzheimers disease. Researchers from Columbia University followed the diets of over 900 senior citizens for six years. They found that individuals with the highest intake of folate were the least likely to subsequently develop Alzheimers. Interestingly, folate from both food sources and from supplements were included.

Folic acid is one of the B vitamins. It functions along with vitamin B12 in several important body processes. For instance, it is crucial in DNA synthesis and is vital to cellular division. When cells are deficient in folate, they cannot divide properly. Other studies have found a link between folic acid deficiency and depression, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and osteoporosis.

Homocysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid. However, elevated levels of homocysteine have been linked to various diseases, including heart disease. Now researchers believe that elevation of homocysteine may also increase the risk of developing Alzheimers. Certain B vitamins are believed to lower the blood level of homocysteine and therefore reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers.

However, while the Columbia study did show a correlation between folic acid and Alzheimers disease, it did not show a link between Alzheimers and increased levels of other B vitamins, notably vitamin B6 or vitamin B12. More research still needs to be done regarding this issue because not all scientific studies are in agreement in the link between higher folic acid levels and lower Alzheimers risk.

Aside from Alzheimers disease, folic acid supplementation may be beneficial in a variety of other conditions such as acne, anemia, cataracts, constipation, fatigue, gout, infertility, periodontal disease, restless legs syndrome, and seborrheic dermatitis, to name but a few.

It is important to note that should you decide to take folic acid supplements, you should also include vitamin B12 supplementation as well, because folic acid supplementation can mask a deficiency of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be potentially dangerous, so you do not want to make that condition difficult for your doctor to find, should you develop it.
For general health purposes, 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily should be beneficial in most instances. However, check with your doctor for her recommendations on how much folate you should get each day.

The following is a list of the folic acid content of some common foods (per 3 ½ oz serving). Also, get in the habit of reading food labels so you can keep up with your daily intake of folic acid as well as other vital nutrients.

Brewers yeast 2,022 mcg
Blackeye peas 440 mcg
What germ 305 mcg
Soy beans 225 mcg
Kidney beans 180 mcg
Lima beans 130 mcg
Asparagus 110 mcg
Lentils 105 mcg
Walnuts 77 mcg
Spinach, fresh 75 mcg
Kale 70 mcg
Peanut butter 56 mcg
Broccoli 53 mcg
Whole-wheat cereal 49 mcg
Brussels sprouts 49 mcg
Almonds 45 mcg
Oatmeal 33 mcg
Cabbage 32 mcg
Green beans 28 mcg
Corn 28 mcg
Orange 5 mcg

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Content copyright © 2013 by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. All rights reserved.
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