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Your skin needs sunlight to make vitamin D.
But a study in Australia shows that if you get a lot of sun, you need to pair vitamin D with another powerful nutrient to stay healthy.
That’s because the research shows that while you’re soaking up the sun, the sun is soaking up your folate (vitamin B9).
Sun exposure linked to having less folate in your body
Keeping levels of this B vitamin higher is especially important for healthy circulation and cellular longevity.
Researcher Michael Kimlin says the research shows that women who spend a lot of time in the sun have folate levels that are less than those recommended for women.
The study of 45 women aged 18 to 47 shows that the sun can drop your blood level of folate by 20 percent.
This can be dangerous because folate is linked with a lower incidence of breast cancer and heart disease, and it helps you survive the heat by increasing circulation.
Mature folks need to soak up some folate, too
In older folks, a deficiency can result in depression and possibly dementia, but that’s not all… Folate is essential for many metabolic functions, helping to support the functions of amino acids (proteins), as well as aiding in DNA reactions.
Your body needs folate to fend off some pretty nasty illnesses and chronic conditions, including…
- Cardiovascular disease. Initial studies connecting folate to heart disease show that getting an adequate intake each day could potentially decrease your risk of Coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke by 25 percent. Coronary artery disease symptoms usually begin when plaque builds up, narrowing the coronary arteries and decreasing blood flow to the heart.
- Cancer. Since folate is involved in DNA reactions and DNA stability, researchers suggest that a lack of folate could play a part in cancer development. In observational studies, data has consistently shown that low folate is associated with cancer risk, particularly colon and breast cancers.
- Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment. Folate is needed for normal brain development and function, not only in your younger years but in later life as well. Though we need further studies, some research has shown that those who supplement folic acid have a smaller loss of grey matter in the brain, which slows down cognitive decline.
- Maintain muscle strength. Maintaining muscle strength as you age helps prevent falls. And preventing falls is important because falls can lead to fractures — in older age, broken bones take much longer to heal. In commonly used muscle strength tests, women with folate deficiency have been shown to have lower than average leg strength and lower than average grip strength.
- Lead a higher quality life. When researchers measured older people’s ability to self-care, along with their mobility activities, they found that 45 percent of the low folate group struggled, compared to just 9 percent of the group who had adequate folate intake.
How much folate is best? Well, don’t go by the RDI. It’s only micrograms a day. The British Journal of Nutrition did a study and found the amounts people typically get to be absurdly low. The authors wrote, “…typical folate intakes are sub-optimal [and] generally insufficient to achieve a folate status associated with the lowest risk of disease.”
Beans, broccoli, asparagus and spinach are the best natural sources of folate from whole foods. And you can get as much folate as you want if it occurs naturally in food. For supplementing, you need twice the RDI, or about 800 mcg a day, for optimal health. Pair it with 1 mg of vitamin B12 a day, as these two water-soluble vitamins work together in your body.
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- Folate: The nutrient that helps you age better — Easy Health Options