What Is Folate? How Much Should I Take, And Why?

Folate has also been in the news regarding its role in osteoporosis. What is folate? How much should I take, and why?

Folate , also called folic acid, is well known for its role in preventing spinal cord defects in unborn babies. However, folate also has an important function for everyone—it helps create new cells. One of its most important contributions, either in its natural form found in food or in vitamin supplements, is its role in reducing homocysteine levels. High homocysteine lev-els are associated with an increased risk of heart dis-ease, stroke, and an increased risk of fracture among older individuals with osteoporosis. Since folate lowers your homocysteine levels, your risk of fracture is also lowered. Some recommend lowering your homocys-teine levels by eating fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, rather than high doses of folate.

In people who have had a stroke, the risk of hip frac-ture is already increased. High homocysteine levels increase the chances of osteoporotic fractures. Taking folate and vitamin B12 significantly reduces the risk of hip fractures by lowering homocysteine levels.

Folate’s benefits to your health don’t stop at bones.Women, particularly younger women, whose intake equals or exceeds the RDA of 400 micrograms of folate per day, reduce their risk of high blood pressure compared to those whose intake is less than 200 micrograms per day.

Getting at least 400 micrograms per day of folate will benefit your bones and your overall health. Most vita-min supplements contain 100% of your RDA of folate. You should not exceed 1000 micrograms. If you do not take a multivitamin, you should be sure to get folate from foods such as spinach, broccoli, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, asparagus, tomato juice, and fortified breads, cereals, and grains .