Can folic acid help prevent obesity? It’s no secret that Americans have trouble fighting their weight. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) obesity in adults has risen 60 percent in the last ten years, which means about one third of Americans are overweight. While poor nutrition and lack of exercise are well known contributors to the problem, recent findings show that low folate levels are associated with a high body mass index (BMI)?
A study by the European Journal of Endocrinology in 2008 showed that four groups of women–from the United Kingdom to Denmark–showed low levels of folic acid at a BMI of 30 and above. Moreover, according to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, an obese mother can pass obesity along to her child in the womb. Does this mean obesity is genetic? No. Actually, folic acid appears to be the cause. Supplementing a pregnant mom’s diet with folic acid might reverse this cycle of inherited obesity.
So, what is folic acid and how can it prevent obesity? Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it binds to moisture in the body and passes through urine. It occurs naturally in foods such as liver, kidney and egg yolks, as well as in legumes, green leafy vegetables and in some fruits, such as bananas, peaches and oranges. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and can be found in supplements. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) daily-recommended allowance for adults varies according to age, weight and whether or not a woman is pregnant or lactating. In general, doses range between 400 to 600 micrograms.
Folate or folic acid, helps produce and maintain new cells and may reduce the accumulation of cholesterol in the liver and blood. Folic acid may also increase the breakdown of triglycerides–the chemical form in which fat exists in the blood–and therefore may have a role in the prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Should You Take Folic Acid if You Are Overweight?
Studies show that folate, or folic acid, should be a regular part of your daily diet. But does that mean you should dash out to the health food store and buy supplements? Is it a miracle cure for obesity? Probably not. Although studies may indicate that there is a link between obesity, high body mass index and low folate levels, there is not yet enough evidence to prove that low folate levels are the only cause. Still, it is always a good idea to take a daily vitamin supplement and eat a healthy diet, including plenty of folate-rich foods. If you really do want to try supplements, doses of folic acid should not exceed 1,000 micrograms per day. Taking more won’t help, since your body excretes what it doesn’t need. Taking too much folic acid can result in stomach problems, sleep problems, skin reactions and seizures.