Folate – also known as vitamin B9 – is generally taken by pregnant women (in the form of folic acid) to help prevent defects, like spina bifida. Folic acid is a synthetic version of the far more superior natural form of vitamin B9, folate, and it is a known fact that taking high doses of synthetic folic acid could be harmful to your health.
It’s important to know the difference between folic acid and folate, because folic acid is often recommended as a supplement instead of folate – when the potential real health protective benefits lies with the natural form of vitamin B9.
Forget me not
Apart from providing protection against spina bifida, folate is known for helping to reduce levels of homocysteine – an amino acid that helps promote the build-up of plaque on blood vessel walls.
It also turns out that folate may be able to help protect your memory, especially in your old age.
A ground-breaking study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia, showed very promising results for those who would like to help preserve their memory as they grow older.
For the study, the researchers enlisted more than 800 men and postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 70 years. Subjects were randomly selected to receive either 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day or a placebo. The trial period lasted three years.
- In the folic acid group, blood tests revealed that average folate levels were five times higher than they were at baseline.
- Homocysteine levels dropped an average of 25 percent in this group.
- Subjects in the folic acid group appeared to perform significantly better than placebo subjects in cognitive tests that assessed memory, information processing speed, word fluency, cognitive flexibility and eye-hand coordination speed.
This is the first study that convincingly demonstrated folic acid’s effectiveness in helping to slow down cognitive decline, even when the vitamin is not mixed with other B vitamins.
Now, this study used folic acid – the synthetic version of folate – which could only mean that using vitamin B9 in its natural form is likely to help boost your memory and brain function even more.
The best dietary sources of this folate include spinach and other dark green vegetables, brewer’s yeast, lima beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, wheat germ, and liver from organically raised animals.
Supplements of folate are available as natural (folate) or synthetic (folic acid). The daily recommended intake of folate is 400 mcg. However, a high intake of folate could mask a vitamin B-12 deficiency in older people. Fortunately, a vitamin B12 deficiency could be easily avoided by eating plenty of meat, fish and eggs, or by taking B12 supplements.
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Folic acid improves memory and protects the brain from aging, published online June 22, 2005, news-medical.net