Friday, 6 April 2012

Why Should My Pregnant Wife Eat Kale & Take Folate?

Folate is a B vitamin, such as thiamine, niacin and vitamin B12

Folate is an important vitamin, which most parents are aware of because of the association of low folate levels with premature babies and birth defects. These defects of the brain or spinal cord are the major defects associated with inadequate folate intake. Folate is necessary for women of childbearing age and at the beginning of pregnancy for a healthy child. Once born, infants and children continue to need adequate levels of folate otherwise they may not grow properly and have a slower than normal growth rate.

Folic acid, also called folate or folacin, is a B-complex vitamin most publicized for its importance in pregnancy and prevention of pregnancy defects. These defects involve malformation of a structure in the fetus called the neural tube. As the baby develops, the top part of this tube helps form the baby's brain, and the bottom part unfolds to become the baby's spinal column.

When the neural tube fails to close properly, serious brain and spinal problems result. Mothers with inadequate supplies of folic acid have been determined to give birth to a greater number of infants with neural tube defects. Beginning in the early 1980's, researchers began to successfully use folic acid supplementation to reduce the risk of nervous system problems in newborn infants.

What does folate do for my growing son?

  • Support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia
  • Help prevent homocysteine build-up in your blood
  • Support cell production, especially in your skin
  • Allow nerves to function properly
  • Help prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures
  • Help prevent dementias including Alzheimer's disease

What happens to Alexander if Saki doesn't get enough folate?
  • Irritability
  • Mental fatigue, forgetfulness, or confusion
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • General or muscular fatigue
  • Gingivitis or periodontal disease
  • Alcoholism
  • Anemias (especially macrocytic anemia)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Cervical tumors
  • Cleft palate or cleft lip
  • Crohn's disease
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Gingivitis
  • Glossitis
  • Glycogen storage disease type I
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Insomnia
  • Myelopathy
  • Neural tube defects
  • Non-senile dementia
  • Ovarian tumors
  • Periodontal disease
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Tropical sprue
  • Uterine tumors
  • premature birth
  • brain defects
  • anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss

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.

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. 

Cells with very short life spans (like skin cells, intestinal cells, and most cells that line the body's exposed surfaces or cavities) are highly dependent on folic acid for their creation. For this reason, folic acid deficiency has repeatedly been linked to problems in these types of tissue.

In the mouth, these problems include gingivitis, cleft palate, and periodontal disease. In the skin, the most common folate deficiency-related condition is seborrheic dermatitis. Vitiligo (loss of skin pigment) can also be related to folic acid deficiency. Cancers of the esophagus and lung, uterus and cervix, and intestine (especially the colon) have been repeatedly linked to folate deficiency.

Prevention of neural tube defects in newborn infants is only one of the nervous system-related functions of folic acid. Deficiency of folate has been linked to a wide variety of nervous system problems, including general mental fatigue, non-senile dementia, depression, restless leg syndrome, nervous system problems in the hands and feet, irritability, forgetfulness, confusion, and insomnia. The link between folate and many of these conditions may involve the role of folate in maintaining proper balance in nervous system's message-carrying molecules. These molecules, called neurotransmitters, often depend upon folic acid for their synthesis. It's been fascinating to see a link discovered by researchers between mothers who follow a Mediterranean-style diet and lowered risk of spina bifida (SB) in their infants. (SB is a set of conditions that include neural tube defects.) The ability of a Mediterranean-type diet to supply rich amounts of folic acid and other nervous system supportive nutrients is believed to be the reason that a Mediterranean-type diet in the lifestyle of the mother works so well in decreasing her infant's SB risk.

List of vegetables and their folate content
basically all leafy green vegetables

Excellent sources of folate include 

Very good sources include 

  • summer squash
  • papaya, 
  • strawberries, 
  • sea vegetables, 
  • cabbage, 
  • bell peppers, 
  • Brussels sprouts, 
  • leeks, 
  • fennel, 
  • tomatoes

Other Sources include
  • Okra 
  • Iceberg lettuce 
  • Sunflower seeds  
  • Asparagus 
  • Baked potato 
  • Avocados 
  • Tomato Juice 
  • Orange juice 
  • Strawberries 
  • Oranges 
  • Eggs
  • Bananas

World's Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
Foods Rating
Romaine Lettuce2 cups16.0127.8432.036.0excellent
Spinach1 cup cooked41.4262.8065.728.6excellent
Turnip Greens1 cup cooked28.8169.9242.526.5excellent
Mustard Greens1 cup cooked21.0102.2025.621.9excellent
Parsley2 tbs2.711.552.919.0good
Sea Vegetables0.25 cup8.636.009.018.8very good
Collard Greens1 cup cooked49.4176.7044.216.1excellent
Asparagus1 cup raw26.869.6817.411.7excellent
Beets1 cup raw58.5148.2437.111.4excellent
Cauliflower1 cup raw26.860.9915.210.3excellent
Celery2 tsp16.236.369.110.1very good
Broccoli1 cup raw30.957.3314.38.3excellent
Summer Squash1 cup raw18.132.778.28.2very good
Calf Liver4 oz-wt217.7375.3593.87.8excellent
Cabbage1 cup raw17.530.107.57.7very good
Lentils1 cup229.7358.3889.67.0excellent
Bell Peppers1 cup raw28.542.3210.66.7very good
Brussels Sprouts1 cup raw37.853.6813.46.4very good
Green Beans1 cup raw31. good
Leeks1 cup raw54.356.9614.24.7very good
Winter Squash 1 cup baked 75.8 41.00 10.2 2.4 good
Papaya1 each118.6115.5228.94.4very good
Eggplant1 cup raw19.718.044.54.1good
Fennel1 cup raw27.023.495.93.9very good
Tomatoes1 cup raw32.427.006.83.8very good
Strawberries1 cup46.134.568.63.4very good
Oranges1 each61.639.309.82.9good
Mushrooms - Crimini5 oz-wt raw19.
Cantaloupe1 cup54.433.608.42.8good
Avocado1 cup233.6118.2629.62.3good
Onions1 cup raw64.030.407.62.1good
Kale1 cup cooked36.416.904.22.1good
Carrots1 cup50.
Swiss Chard1 cup cooked35.015.753.92.0good
Raspberries1 cup64.025.836.51.8good
Sunflower Seeds0.25 cup204.479.4519.91.7good
Pineapple1 cup82.529.707.41.6good
Quinoa0.25 cup222.077.7019.41.6good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellentDV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very goodDV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
goodDV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

They sell "folic acid" in the pharmacy, is that the same thing?
The naturally occurring form of folate is not folic acid, a compound not normally found in food or nature, but tetrahydrofolate. While folic acid can be converted into folate, that conversion is poor in humans. It’s also important to note that unlike natural folate, folic acid does not cross the placenta. This is significant because folate is a crucial nutrient for pregnancy, and while folic acid can prevent neural tube defects it doesn’t have the other beneficial effects of folate. What’s more, several studies have shown that folic acid – but not natural folate – increases cancer risk. Unfortunately, folic acid is what’s often used in multivitamins, because it’s significantly cheaper than natural folate.

How do cooking, storage, or processing affect folate?
Folate contained in animal products (like beef liver) appears to be relatively stable to cooking, unlike folate in plant products (like cabbage) which can lose up to 40% of their folate content from cooking. Processed grains and flours can lose up to 70% of their folate, and despite this processing loss, processed grains and flours are not required to be enriched with folate, even though they are legally required to be enriched with other B vitamins including B1, B2, and B3.

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.

Folate Supplements Saki Has Been Taking
(Apart from plenty of leafy greens)
1st trimester

2nd/3rd trimester

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