Diary of Unknown Symptoms

Mystery of the Internal Vibration

Entry for June 16, 2006


What is folate?

Folic acid, also called folate or folacin, is a B-complex vitamin most publicized for its importance in pregnancy and prevention of pregnancy defects.

Folic acid is one of the most chemically complicated vitamins, with a three-part structure that puts special demands on the body’s metabolism. The three primary components of folic acid are called PABA, glutamic acid, and pteridine. (Two of these components, glutamic acid and pteridine, help explain the technical chemical name for folate, namely pteroylmonoglutamate.)

As complex as this vitamin is in its structure, it is equally as complicated in its interaction with the human body. For example, most foods do not contain folic acid in the exact form described above, and enzymes inside the intestine have to chemically alter food forms of folate in order for this vitamin to be absorbed. Even when the body is operating at full efficiency, only about 50% of ingested food folate can be absorbed.

What is the function of folate?

Red blood cell formation and circulation support

One of folate’s key functions as a vitamin is to allow for complete development of red blood cells. These cells help carry oxygen around the body. When folic acid is deficient, the red bloods cannot form properly, and continue to grow without dividing. This condition is called macrocytic anemia, and one of its most common causes is folic acid deficiency.

In addition to its support of red blood cell formation, folate also helps maintain healthy circulation of the blood throughout the body by preventing build-up of a substance called homocysteine. A high serum homocysteine level (called hyperhomocysteinemia) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and low intake of folate is a key risk factor for hyperhomocysteinemia. Increased intake of folic acid, particularly by men, has repeatedly been suggested as a simply way to lower risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing build-up of homocysteine in the blood. Preliminary research also suggests that high homocysteine levels can lead to the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells and may therefore contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, folate deficiency may have an important relationship to neurological health.

Research is now confirming a link between blood levels of folate and not only cardiovascular disease, but dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the most recent studies, which was published in the July 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated 228 subjects. In those whose blood levels of folate were lowest, the risk for mild cognitive impairment was more than tripled, and risk of dementia increased almost four fold. Homocysteine, a potentially harmful product of cellular metabolism that is converted into other useful compounds by folate, along with vitamin B6 and B 12, was also linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals whose homocysteine levels were elevated had a 4.3 (more than four fold) increased risk of dementia and a 3.7 (almost four fold) increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.(June 30, 2004)

Research teams in the Netherlands and the U.S. have confirmed that low levels of folic acid in the diet significantly increases risk of osteporosis-related bone fractures due to the resulting increase in homocysteine levels. Homocysteine has already been linked to damage to the arteries and atherosclerosis, plus increased risk of dementia in the elderly. Now, in a study that appeared in the May 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Eramus Medical Center, Rotterdam, Holland, and another team in Boston have confirmed that individuals with the highest levels of homocysteine have a much higher risk of osteoporotic fracture.

In the Rotterdam study, which included 2,406 subjects aged 55 years or older, those with the highest homocysteine levels, whether men or women, almost doubled their risk of fracture. The Boston team found that risk of hip fracture nearly quadrupled in men and doubled in women in the top 25% of homocysteine levels. Both groups found that folic acid reduced the risk of osteoporotic fractures by reducing high levels of homocysteine.

What factors might contribute to a deficiency of folate?

In addition to poor dietary intake of folate itself, deficient intake of other B vitamins can contribute to folate deficiency. These vitamins include B1, B2, and B3 which are all involved in folate recycling. Poor protein intake can cause deficiency of folate binding protein which is needed for optimal absorption of folate from the intestine, and can also be related to an insufficient supply of glycine and serine, the amino acids that directly participate in metabolic recycling of folate. Excessive intake of alcohol, smoking, and heavy coffee drinking can also contribute to folate deficiency.

How do other nutrients interact with folate?

Vitamins B1, B2, and B3 must be present in adequate amounts to enable folic acid to undergo metabolic recycling in the body. Excessive amounts of folic acid, however, can hide a vitamin B12 deficiency, by masking blood-related symptoms.

How is folate-deficiency anemia diagnosed?

Folate-deficiency anemia may be suspected from general findings from a complete medical history and physical examination. In addition, several blood tests can be performed to confirm the diagnosis. If the anemia is thought to be caused by a problem in the digestive tract, a barium study of the digestive system may be performed. Folate deficiency does not usually produce neurological problems; B12 deficiency does. Folate and B12 deficiency can be present at the same time. If B12 deficiency is treated with folate by mistake, the symptoms of anemia may lessen, but the neurological problems can become worse.

Natural forms of folic acid:

orange juice
oranges
romaine lettuce
spinach
liver
rice
barley
sprouts
wheat germ
soy beans
green, leafy vegetables
beans
peanuts
broccoli
asparagus
peas
lentils
wheat germ
chick peas (garbanzo beans)

How do I know if I’m deficent in folate? Untill I started eating healthy recently, the only thing I had on a semi-regular basis was romaine lettuce. I’m sure wheatgrass is a good substitute for the green, leafy vegetables.

What are deficiency symptoms for folate?

Because of its link with the nervous system, folate deficiency can be associated with irritability, mental fatigue, forgetfulness, confusion, depression, and insomnia. The connections between folate, circulation, and red blood cell status make folate deficiency a possible cause of general or muscular fatigue. The role of folate in protecting the lining of body cavities means that folate deficiency can also result in intestinal tract symptoms (like diarrhea) or mouth-related symptoms like gingivitis or periodontal disease.

So folate helps maintain healthy circulation of the blood throughout the body by preventing build-up of a substance called homocysteine which can lead to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

Another one of my “weird” symptoms is when I hold my hands over my head for more than ten seconds. I start to feel a mild numbing sensation down the length of my arms and I’m sure it’s due to a lack of blood circulation.

I think I’ve proven that I do have circulation issues so maybe I’m deficient in folic acid too. Beriberi sounds very serious and if it’s what I have then I should get a blood test to confirm it. On the way home I’ll drop into the walk in clinic and see if I can convince the doctor for a blood test. At the very least, I will be able to rule out if it comes up negative.

Advertisements

June 16, 2006 - Posted by | Health | , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: