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Folate study shows promise in healing spinal cord injuries

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A study funded by the U.S. Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, produced results that show the vitamin folate appears to promote healing in damaged rat spinal cord tissue by triggering a change in DNA. Findings of the study were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Researchers report that the healing effects of the vitamin increased with the dosage, until regrowth of the damaged tissue reached a maximum level. Additional studies are needed to determine what role folate might play in spinal cord injury treatment for human beings.

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in leafy green vegetables and other foods. Folate helps produce and maintain cells, and is needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. The vitamin is important for the formation of the brain and spinal cord in the early embryo.

The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to reduce their risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord injury.

In addition to leafy green vegetables, you can find folate in citrus fruits and juices, and dried beans and peas. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, published regulations requiring the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products.

Some medications such as anti-convulsants, metformin, and barbiturates may interfere with folate utilization and render you deficient. Symptoms of a folate deficiency may include digestive disorders such as diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Additional signs may include weakness, headaches, sore tongue, heart palpitations, irritability, forgetfulness, and behavioral disorders, however, all of these symptoms may indicate various other medical conditions as well.

Individuals over 50 years of age are forewarned by health experts to be aware of a potential interaction between folic acid and vitamin B12, and to keep their health care providers informed if they are taking folic acid supplements.

Please click here for a Folic Acid Pamphlet provided by the Michigan Department of Community Health Birth Defects Program. It provides a list of foods that contain folic acid and provides information on reading food labels.

Nancy Zielinski

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