Folic acid deficiency linked to increased risk of dementia – how to tell you’re deficient

Dr Hilary issues warning about missed dementia diagnoses

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Folate, a water-soluble vitamin, includes naturally occurring food folate and synthetic folic acid in supplement and fortified foods. Researchers have now linked inadequate levels of folate to an increased risk for cognitive dysfunction and dementia.

The study, published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience journal, found that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s had lower levels of folate.

This indicated that folate deficiencies may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Notably, the study suggests that folate deficiency may contribute to the cognitive impairment of the ageing brain, which can lead to reversible dementia, but also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Folate, also called vitamin B-9, is a B vitamin that naturally occurs in certain foods.

It is important for the synthesis and repair of DNA and other genetic material, as it is necessary for cells to divide.

A previous study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that folate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 supplements have a positive effect on memory performance.

Inadequate folate status was associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases that may have negative impact on the health of the ageing population.

Notably, low levels of folate may result in hyperhomocysteinemia, a significant risk factor for vascular disease and changes in DNA that may result in pro-carcinogenic effects.Low folate status has also been associated with cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancer.

A vitamin B9 deficiency causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly.

A lack of folic acid will cause anaemia and sometimes other symptoms.

According to Patient, some symptoms of folic acid deficiency include tiredness, having little energy, feeling faint and becoming easily breathless.

Less common symptoms include headaches, heartbeats suddenly becoming noticeable (palpitations) , altered taste and ringing in your ears.

Folic acid deficiencies

According to Medical News Today, some other risks associated with a deficiency in folic acid include:

Depression: Studies have found that people with lower levels of folate may be more likely to experience depression.

Autism: Some research suggests that taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy could reduce the chances of the baby having autism.

Sources of folic acid

Healthline has listed some foods that are rich in folate, these include:

Eggs: Including just a few servings of offs in your diet each week is an easy way to boost your folate intake.

Leafy Greens: Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and arugula are low in calories yet bursting with many key vitamins and minerals, including folate.

Nuts and seeds: In addition to containing a hearty dose of protein, nuts and seeds are rich in fibre and many of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

Fortified grains: Many types of grains, such as bread and pasta, have been fortified to boost their folic acid contents.

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