If you’ve never been pregnant or anemic, the words folate or folic acid might not mean much to you. Yet, folic acid benefits for hair—and other reasons— extend so far past supporting healthy fetus development and increasing your red blood cell count that everyone can reap wellness perks by getting to know them better. Both are “forms of B-vitamins,” explains Jaimie Bailey, a nutritionist at NAO Nutrition. “Folate is naturally occurring in food, and folic acid is the synthetic version,” she says.
Because folic water soluble, your body doesn’t store the nutrient, which means have to replenish it in your system on the reg. You can get a natural folate fix from plenty of plants like peas, lentils, oranges, whole wheat, asparagus, beets, bananas and other leafy greens. And nutritionists recommend sourcing the nutrient from your food as much as possible because it converts to vitamin B9 faster. Depending on your diet, however, it might be necessary to increase your intake with a folic acid supplement so that you don’t develop a deficiency, which can make you feel even more exhausted because it causes fatigue plus, irritability, weakness, pale skin, and shortness of breath.
If you’re deficient in folic acid (which one of the main places that it might start to show up is in your hair. According to studies, low levels of folate have been associated with conditions like androgenic alopecia (a genetic condition related to hair loss) or telogen effluvium (characterized by hair irregular thinning or shedding), and if you’re experiencing these things you should check in with your dermatologist to see if this might be the underlying cause.
If you are considering introducing a folic acid supplement into your regimen, for that reason or any other, first consult your doctor and heed Bailey’s nutrition advice: “Too much folic acid taken orally can cause certain discomforts, such as rash, diarrhea, or cramps.” So, whether you’re already taking a supplement or interested in doing so to reap the folic acid benefits below, make sure you’re monitoring your intake as the recommended amount is 300–400mcg a day. Below are four important folic acid benefits every woman can reap.
Folic acid benefits for hair
“Folic acid keeps our red blood cells circulating with follicle nourishing compounds like oxygen and vitamins needed to support a healthy hair growth cycle,” says Melissa Anzelone, ND, Director of Clinical Education and Corporate Wellness at Nutrafol. She explains that because hair growth is an energy-dependent process, B vitamins like folic acid can help to release energy from the foods that we eat so our bodies can use that energy to make hair.
Hormones are directly linked to hair growth and loss, and it’s important to keep them balanced in order to maintain hair health. Folic acid can help with that. “B vitamins, like folic acid, help to support healthy cortisol—otherwise known as the stress hormone—levels by supporting hormone productions in your adrenal gland,” says Anzelone, adding that healthy cortisol levels are key to maintaining a healthy hair growth cycle.
“Normally, when hair is produced, it cycles from the growth phase, called the Anagen phase, to the Catagen regression phase, then to the Telogen shedding phase, until it starts back at square one in the growth phase. “When our stress hormone levels are high, this keeps us in the Telogen or shedding phase of the cycle and it is difficult to return back to the Anagen or growth stage,” says Anzelone.
Adding in a supplement that includes Folic Acid, like Nutrafol Vitamin B-booster ($79), can help provide the energy that your cells need to keep them in the growth phase and maintain a healthy hair cycle.
Even if you aren’t dealing with hair loss, there are other folic acid benefits for hair that every woman can reap. Because it helps with synthesis of DNA nucleotides and amino acids, studies have shown that it can also help to add volume and shine to your hair. A deficiency in folic acid has also been loosely linked to premature graying, and a supplement with biotin, folic acid, and Vitamin B12 may help hair maintain its natural color for longer.
Other benefits of folic acid
1. Lowers risk of heart diseases and strokes
A 2016 study analyzed a number of randomized control trials and found that folic acid supplements were associated with a 10 percent decrease in strokes and 4 percent decreases in cardiovascular diseases.
2. Can prevent age-related hearing loss
Folic acid may help counteract hearing loss associated with aging, a 2014 study found while working with female mice. Human studies on genetic diseases have also shown a potential connection between folate deficiency and hearing loss, though further studies are needed to better understand how and why the two are linked.
3. Helps treat gum Disease
Studies dating as far back as 1984 were able to find evidence that folic acid or folate used orally have a measurable effect on reducing gingivitis.
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