"These results provide new information that points to the importance of keeping a closer watch on folate status in childhood and adolescence. They may also have direct implications for school meal provisions, school teaching programs and information to parents," the authors concluded.
However, there is no scientific evidence that taking folate supplements will be beneficial, Armstrong noted. "It's too early to say that everyone should start taking folate," he stressed.
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins and is a key component in making DNA and RNA. Insufficient folic acid is a cause of certain birth defects of the spine and brain, including spina bifida.
Among the elderly, folic acid consumption appears to affect mental ability, and low levels of this vitamin have been associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, according to several studies.
Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas and nuts. In addition, people can obtain folic acid from breads, cereals and other grain products enriched with folic acid, as well as folic acid supplements.
For more information on folic acid, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCE: Daniel Armstrong, M.D., professor and associate chair, pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; July 11, 2011, Pediatrics, online
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