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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Folate Usage

Written by FoundHealth.


Effect of Folate on Depression

Folate is a B-vitamin and, like all vitamins, cannot be synthesized by the body alone but must come from diet or supplements.2 Folate attained through diet (like leafy green vegetables, legumes,...

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Effect of Folate on Gout

Folate has been recommended as a preventive treatment for gout for at least 20 years. Some clinicians report that it can be highly effective.

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Effect of Folate on Cervical Cancer

Folate, a B vitamin, deficiency is thought to increase the ease with which cervical cancer can develop. It participates in the crucial biological process known as methylation and plays an important...

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Effect of Folate on Hypertension

Folate plays a number of very important functions in the body, including cell division. Its exact role in the reduction of blood pressure is not yet clear. It may help reduce high blood pressure by a...

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Effect of Folate on Bipolar Disorder

Folate may be useful for enhancing the effects of lithium, a common bipolar disorder treatment.

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Therapeutic Uses

The use of folate supplements by pregnant women dramatically decreases the risk that their children will be born with a serious birth defect called neural tube defect. 1 This congenital problem consists of problems with the brain or spinal cord.

Folate supplements may also help prevent other types of birth defects, such as defects of the heart, palate, and urinary tract; conversely, drugs that impair folate action may increase risk of birth defects. (See Requirements/Sources for a list of the drugs involved.) An observational study suggests that folate supplements may reduce this risk in pregnant women taking such drugs. 2 Folate also lowers blood levels of homocysteine, which in turn has been hypothesized to reduce the risk of heart disease and other conditions. Studies conflict on the optimum dose of folate for this purpose; 100 to 400 mcg may produce some homocysteine-lowering effects, while 800 mcg daily may lead to maximum effects. 3 Note however, that there is as yet no meaningful evidence that reducing homocysteine is beneficial, and considerable evidence that it is not. Overall, studies of folate supplementation for reducing cardiovascular risk have failed to show benefit. 4 On a more positive note, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 728 Danish seniors with high homocysteine and relatively low folate intake found that use of folate supplements slowed the progression of age-related hearing loss. 5 See the full Homocysteine article for additional information. Folate supplementation might also improve mental function in seniors with high homocysteine levels. 6 Based on very preliminary evidence, folate has been suggested as a treatment for depression . 7 One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that folate supplements at a dose of 500 mcg daily may help antidepressants work more effectively in women, but perhaps not in men. 8 Observational studies hint that a deficiency in folate might predispose people to develop cancer of the cervix, 9 colon, 10 lung, 11 breast, 12 pancreas, 13 and mouth, 14 and that folate supplements may help prevent colon cancer, especially when taken for many years or by people with ulcerative colitis . 15 However, observational studies are notoriously unreliable; large double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are needed to prove a treatment effective. One such study performed on folate for cancer prevention among 1,000 people over a 5-year period found folate ineffective for preventing early colon cancer. 16 However, a much smaller study involving 94 individuals with colon polyps (a precancerous condition) found that folate may reduce the risk of recurrent polyps over a 3-year period. 17 High-dose folate (10 mg daily) might be helpful for normalizing abnormalities in the appearance of the cervix (as seen under a microscope) in women taking oral contraceptives, but it does not appear to reverse actual cervical dysplasia . 18 Some evidence suggests that folate supplements might reduce risk of stroke . 19 Folate deficiency may also increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease , although this has not yet been proven. 20 Folate supplements may reduce drug side effects in individuals taking the drug methotrexate for certain conditions. 21 Folate may also reduce side effects of the antiseizure drug carbamazepine . 22 Folate supplements may help medications in the nitroglycerin family remain effective. 23 Folate supplementation may reduce blood arsenic levels in people who have been exposed to this toxic substance. 24 Very high dosages of folate may be helpful for gout , 25 although some authorities suggest that it was actually a contaminant of folate that caused the benefit seen in some studies. 26 Furthermore, other studies have found no benefit at all. 27 Based on intriguing but not yet definitive evidence, folate in various dosages has been suggested as a treatment for bipolar disorder , osteoarthritis (in combination with vitamin B 12 ), osteoporosis , restless legs syndrome , rheumatoid arthritis , seborrheic dermatitis , and vitiligo (splotchy loss of skin pigmentation). 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 Other conditions for which it has been suggested include migraine headaches and periodontal disease .

Folate does notappear to be helpful for enhancing mental function in seniors. 37


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  3. Wald DS, Bishop L, Wald NJ, Law M, Hennessy E, Weir D, McPartlin J, Scott J. Randomized trial of folic acid supplementation and serum homocysteine levels. Arch Intern Med. 161(5):695-700.
  4. Bazzano LA, Reynolds K, Holder KN, He J. Effect of folic acid supplementation on risk of cardiovascular diseases: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. JAMA. 296(22):2720-6.
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  7. Godfrey PSA, Toone BK, Carney MWP, et al. Enhancement of recovery from psychiatric illness by methylfolate. Lancet. 1990;336:392-395.
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  9. Butterworth CE Jr. Effect of folate on cervical cancer. Synergism among risk factors. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 669():293-9.
  10. Kim Y-I, Mason JB. Folate, epithelial dysplasia and colon cancer. Proc Assoc Am Physicians. 1995;107:218-227.
  11. Heimburger DC. Localized deficiencies of folic acid in aerodigestive tissues. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 669():87-95; discussion 95-6.
  12. Zhang S, Hunter DJ, Hankinson SE, Giovannucci EL, Rosner BA, Colditz GA, Speizer FE, Willett WC. A prospective study of folate intake and the risk of breast cancer. JAMA. 281(17):1632-7.
  13. Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ, Pietinen P, Barrett MJ, Taylor PR, Virtamo J, Albanes D. Dietary and other methyl-group availability factors and pancreatic cancer risk in a cohort of male smokers. Am J Epidemiol. 153(7):680-7.
  14. Heimburger DC. Localized deficiencies of folic acid in aerodigestive tissues. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 669():87-95; discussion 95-6.
  15. Giovannucci E, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Rimm EB, Trichopoulos D, Rosner BA, Speizer FE, Willett WC. Folate, methionine, and alcohol intake and risk of colorectal adenoma. J Natl Cancer Inst. 85(11):875-84.
  16. Cole BF, Baron JA, Sandler RS, Haile RW, Ahnen DJ, Bresalier RS, McKeown-Eyssen G, Summers RW, Rothstein RI, Burke CA, Snover DC, Church TR, Allen JI, Robertson DJ, Beck GJ, Bond JH, Byers T, Mandel JS, Mott LA, Pearson LH, Barry EL, Rees JR, Marcon N, Saibil F, Ueland PM, Greenberg ER, Polyp Prevention Study Group. Folic acid for the prevention of colorectal adenomas: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 297(21):2351-9.
  17. Jaszewski R, Misra S, Tobi M, Ullah N, Naumoff JA, Kucuk O, Levi E, Axelrod BN, Patel BB, Majumdar AP. Folic acid supplementation inhibits recurrence of colorectal adenomas: a randomized chemoprevention trial. World J Gastroenterol. 14(28):4492-8.
  18. Butterworth CE Jr, Hatch KD, Gore H, Mueller H, Krumdieck CL. Improvement in cervical dysplasia associated with folic acid therapy in users of oral contraceptives. Am J Clin Nutr. 35(1):73-82.
  19. Wang X, Qin X, Demirtas H, Li J, Mao G, Huo Y, Sun N, Liu L, Xu X. Efficacy of folic acid supplementation in stroke prevention: a meta-analysis. Lancet. 369(9576):1876-82.
  20. Snowdon DA, Tully CL, Smith CD, Riley KP, Markesbery WR. Serum folate and the severity of atrophy of the neocortex in Alzheimer disease: findings from the Nun study. Am J Clin Nutr. 71(4):993-8.
  21. van Ede AE, Laan RF, Rood MJ, Huizinga TW, van de Laar MA, van Denderen CJ, Westgeest TA, Romme TC, de Rooij DJ, Jacobs MJ, de Boo TM, van der Wilt GJ, Severens JL, Hartman M, Krabbe PF, Dijkmans BA, Breedveld FC, van de Putte LB. Effect of folic or folinic acid supplementation on the toxicity and efficacy of methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis: a forty-eight week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arthritis Rheum. 44(7):1515-24.
  22. Asadi-Pooya AA, Ghetmiri E. Folic acid supplementation reduces the development of some blood cell abnormalities in children receiving carbamazepine. Epilepsy Behav. 8(1):228-31.
  23. Gori T, Burstein JM, Ahmed S, Miner SE, Al-Hesayen A, Kelly S, Parker JD. Folic acid prevents nitroglycerin-induced nitric oxide synthase dysfunction and nitrate tolerance: a human in vivo study. Circulation. 104(10):1119-23.
  24. Gamble MV, Liu X, Slavkovich V, Pilsner JR, Ilievski V, Factor-Litvak P, Levy D, Alam S, Islam M, Parvez F, Ahsan H, Graziano JH. Folic acid supplementation lowers blood arsenic. Am J Clin Nutr. 86(4):1202-9.
  25. Oster KA. Evaluation of serum cholesterol reduction and xanthine oxidase inhibition in the treatment of atherosclerosis. Recent Adv Stud Cardiac Struct Metab. 3():73-80.
  26. Boss GR, Ragsdale RA, Zettner A, Seegmiller JE. Failure of folic acid (pteroylglutamic acid) to affect hyperuricemia. J Lab Clin Med. 96(5):783-9.
  27. Flouvier B, Devulder B. Folic acid, xanthine oxidase, and uric acid [letter]. Ann Intern Med. 1978;88:269.
  28. O'Keeffe ST. Restless legs syndrome. A review. Arch Intern Med. 156(3):243-8.
  29. Brattström LE, Hultberg BL, Hardebo JE. Folic acid responsive postmenopausal homocysteinemia. Metabolism. 34(11):1073-7.
  30. Flynn MA, Irvin W, Krause G. The effect of folate and cobalamin on osteoarthritic hands. J Am Coll Nutr. 13(4):351-6.
  31. Kremer JM, Bigaouette J. Nutrient intake of patients with rheumatoid arthritis is deficient in pyridoxine, zinc, copper, and magnesium. J Rheumatol. 23(6):990-4.
  32. Montes LF, Diaz ML, Lajous J, et al. Folic acid and vitamin B 12 in vitiligo: a nutritional approach. Cutis. 1992;50:39-42.
  33. Coppen A, Abou-Saleh MT. Plasma folate and affective morbidity during long-term lithium therapy. Br J Psychiatry. 141():87-9.
  34. Coppen A, Chaudhry S, Swade C. Folic acid enhances lithium prophylaxis. JAffect Disord. 1986;10:9-13.
  35. Callaghan TJ. The effect of folic acid on seborrheic dermatitis. Cutis. 1967;3:583-588.
  36. Juhlin L, Olsson MJ. Improvement of vitiligo after oral treatment with vitamin B12 and folic acid and the importance of sun exposure. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh). 1997;77:460-462.
  37. Pathansali R, Mangoni AA, Creagh-Brown B, Lan ZC, Ngow GL, Yuan XF, Ouldred EL, Sherwood RA, Swift CG, Jackson SH. Effects of folic acid supplementation on psychomotor performance and hemorheology in healthy elderly subjects. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 43(1):127-37.


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