Folic acid

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250 °C (523 K), decomp.

Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9,[1] vitamin Bc[2] or folacin) and folate (the naturally occurring form), as well as pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, pteroyl-L-glutamate, and pteroylmonoglutamic acid[3] are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9. Folic acid is itself not biologically active, but its biological importance is due to tetrahydrofolate and other derivatives after its conversion to dihydrofolic acid in the liver.[4]

Vitamin B9 (folic acid and folate inclusive) is essential to numerous bodily functions ranging from nucleotide biosynthesis to the remethylation of homocysteine. The human body needs folate to synthesize DNA, repair DNA, and methylate DNA as well as to act as a cofactor in biological reactions involving folate.[5] It is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth. Children and adults both require folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia.[6] Folate and folic acid derive their names from the Latin word folium (which means "leaf"). Leafy vegetables are a principal source, although, in Western diets, fortified cereals and bread may be a larger dietary source.

A lack of dietary folic acid leads to folate deficiency (FD). This can result in many health problems, the most notable one being neural tube defects in developing embryos. Low levels of folate can also lead to homocysteine accumulation as a result of the impairment of one-carbon metabolism mechanism methylation.[5] DNA synthesis and repair are impaired and this could lead to cancer development.[5] Supplementation in patients with ischaemic heart disease may, however, lead to increased rates of cancer and all-cause mortality.[7]

A 2003 opinion article in the New York Times[8] named micronutrients, especially folic acid, the "world's most luscious food," since absence of folic acid and a handful of other micronutrients causes otherwise preventable deformities and diseases, especially in fetal development. Folic acid can be used to help treat Alzheimer's disease, depression, anemia, and certain types of cancer.[9] The article claims adding folic acid and micronutrients to the food supply of developing countries could be more cost effective than any other single action in improving world health.

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