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Spinach is rich in folate

For better health, increased energy and happiness!


The terms folic acid and folate are often used interchangeably for this water-soluble B-complex vitamin.

Folic acid, the more stable form, occurs rarely in foods or the human body but is the form most often used in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.

Naturally occurring folates exist in many chemical forms. Folates are found in foods as well as in metabolically active forms in the human body.



Individuals in the early stages of folate deficiency may not show obvious symptoms, but blood levels of homocysteine may increase.

Rapidly dividing cells are most vulnerable to the effects of folate deficiency; thus, when the folate supply to the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow is inadequate, blood cell division becomes abnormal resulting in fewer but larger red blood cells. This type of anemia is called megaloblastic or macrocytic anemia, referring to the enlarged, immature red blood cells.

Because normal red blood cells have a lifetime in the circulation of approximately four months, it can take months for folate deficient individuals to develop the characteristic megaloblastic anemia.

Progression of such an anemia leads to a decreased oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and may ultimately result in symptoms of fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

It is important to point out that megaloblastic anemia resulting from folate deficiency is identical to the megaloblastic anemia resulting from vitamin B 12 deficiency, and further clinical testing is required to diagnose the true cause of megaloblastic anemia.



Folate deficiency is most often caused by a dietary insufficiency; however, folate deficiency can occur in a number of other situations.

For example, alcoholism is associated with low dietary intake and diminished absorption of folate, which can lead to folate deficiency.

Additionally, certain conditions such as pregnancy or cancer result in increased rates of cell division and metabolism, causing an increase in the body's demand for folate.

Several medications may also contribute to deficiency.



Recommended Dietary Allowance for Folate in Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE)
Life Stage Age Males (mcg/day) Females (mcg/day)
Infants 0-6 months 65 ( AI ) 65 ( AI )
Infants 7-12 months 80 (AI) 80 (AI)
Children 1-3 years 150 150
Children 4-8 years 200 200
Children 9-13 years 300 300
Adolescents 14-18 years 400 400
Adults 19-years and older 400 400
Pregnancy all ages - 600
Breast-feeding all ages - 500



Green leafy vegetables (foliage) are rich sources of folate and provide the basis for its name.

Citrus fruit juices, legumes, and fortified cereals are also excellent sources of folate. A number of folate-rich foods are listed in the table below along with their folate content in micrograms (mcg).

Food Serving Folate (mcg)
Fortified breakfast cereal 1 cup 200-400
Orange juice (from concentrate) 6 ounces 83
Spinach (cooked) 1/2 cup 132
Asparagus (cooked) 1/2 cup (~ 6 spears) 134
Lentils (cooked) 1/2 cup 179
Garbanzo beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 141
Lima beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 78
Bread 1 slice 20 (Folic acid)*
Pasta (cooked) 1 cup 60 (Folic acid)*
Rice (cooked) 1 cup 60 (Folic acid)*



Both low folate and low vitamin B12 status have been found in studies of depressive patients, and an association between depression and low levels of the two vitamins is found in studies of the general population.

Low plasma or serum folate has also been found in patients with recurrent mood disorders treated by lithium.

A link between depression and low folate has similarly been found in patients with alcoholism.

It is interesting to note that Hong Kong and Taiwan populations with traditional Chinese diets (rich in folate), including patients with major depression, have high serum folate concentrations.

Low folate levels are furthermore linked to a poor response to antidepressants, and treatment with folic acid is shown to improve response to antidepressants. A recent study also suggests that high vitamin B12 status may be associated with better treatment outcome.

In a large population study from Norway increased plasma homocysteine was associated with increased risk of depression but not anxiety. There is now substantial evidence of a common decrease in serum/red blood cell folate, serum vitamin B12 and an increase in plasma homocysteine in depression.

Furthermore, the MTHFR C677T polymorphism that impairs the homocysteine metabolism is shown to be overrepresented among depressive patients, which strengthens the association. On the basis of current data, many international health associations suggest that oral doses of both folic acid (800 microg daily) and vitamin B12 (1 mg daily) should be tried to improve treatment outcome in depression.


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