Can Folic Acid Alter Your Genes?

april-_4-vt.jpgFolic acid supplements benefit everyone, from the unborn to the elderly. Find out what it can do for you and how it can help you live a longer, healthier life.

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health launched the Human Genome Project (HGP). The goal? To identify the genes in the human body, to determine DNA sequences, and to make them accessible for further study that might enable us to better our lives. Humans being the most complex and sophisticated species, researchers expected to find at least 100,000 genes. Instead, they found about 25,000 — just 300 more than a mouse. However, continued research found another influencing factor — the epigenes: chemical switches that turn our genes on and off without altering the genes themselves. Several substances are known to flip those switches, and include folic acid.

During the HGP, researchers gave folic acid to obese mice with fertility problems and either prostate or breast cancer. While it didn’t change anything for the mothers, they nevertheless had healthy pups free of their mothers’ adverse physical conditions.

This is good news for women who are or could become pregnant. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 70 percent of all brain and spine birth defects could be prevented if every woman of childbearing age took folic acid daily. Studies have also found it to lower the risk of premature birth and low birth weight, and it may prevent a baby from developing a heart defect, cleft lip, or cleft palate.

However, the good news about folic acid doesn’t end there: It may also play a role in protecting us from the all too common diseases many of us suffer as we get older. Studies have linked folic acid deficiency to anemia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Folic acid also lowers homocysteine levels — shown to be significantly elevated in people with blocked arteries – and thereby reduces our risk of heart attack and stroke.

Does folic acid alter our genes? In a nutshell, no. But it could drastically affect our health, our quality of life, and the development of our children, their children, and so on down through the ages. To live a longer, healthier life, give folic acid a try. And don’t forget to pass this information on to your daughters.

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