Healthy adults should get at least 400 mcg of folate from food in order to lose weight. You shouldn’t get too much folic acid from supplements, though. It could make you gain weight.
Health benefits of folate
Folate and folic acid are different forms of vitamin B9. Folate is naturally present in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form found in dietary supplements and fortified foods.
Folic acid is about 70% more bioavailable than folate. Thus, we need lower doses of vitamin B9 from supplements or fortified foods.
Also, folic acid isn’t vulnerable to heat or light. So, fortified foods can really help us meet our daily needs.
Folate (or folic acid) is involved in protein and lipid metabolism, cell division, and also in the synthesis of many hormones, such as serotonin. It may prevent the development of certain types of cancer, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke! Mainly, due to its effect in homocysteine metabolism.
Additionally, folate is important for good mood as well as good cognitive function.
But, folic acid supplementation has gained reputation due to its huge importance in reducing the risk of neural tube defects and other birth defects in early pregnancy.
Obese people have low levels of folate
According to many studies, overweight and obese people tend to have lower serum folate levels. In fact, low folate intake has been linked to excess body weight, higher Body Mass Index (BMI), and waist circumference.
Overweight people probably need higher amounts of folate, as they absorb less. Additionally, obese people probably follow a diet poor in vegetables, fruits and legumes, which are the main dietary sources of folate.
In fact, serum folate levels seem to be a reliable predictor of weight loss. Researchers use this value to predict the success of a diet for weight loss. Even for predicting the success of medical treatments, such as bariatric surgery, in cases of severe obesity. A rise of 1 ng/ml in serum folate increases the chance of successful weight loss by 28%.
Why do I need high doses of folate when dieting?
Above all, people who lose significant amounts of weight should increase their folate intake because folate plays a key role in the metabolism of homocysteine. Actually, plasma homocysteine levels may increase during weight loss. Even among healthy people.
High levels of homocysteine are harmful. High amounts of this amino acid can damage the lining of the arteries and make the blood clot more easily. Above all, high levels of homocysteine seem to increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. According to studies, taking folic acid supplements or increasing folate intake through food could decrease the risk of stroke by 73%.[6,7,8]
So, it’s important to consume a great variety of foods high in folate while following a hypocaloric diet for weight loss in order to prevent increased homocysteine levels.
After all, the richest foods in folate are dark leafy vegetables, beans, spices, and herbs. These foods are good for weight loss, as they’re low in calories and reduce hunger.
Folic acid, glycemic control & obesity
Folate is important for the maintenance of a healthy weight because it plays a key role in the synthesis of DNA, RNA and metabolism of amino acids. Moreover, folate might decrease oxidative stress, inflammation, and prevent high levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
Increased levels of glucose have been linked to a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease. Improved glycemic control makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight or lose body weight.
According to a study, folic acid supplementation could improve insulin resistance and glycemic control.
How much folate for weight loss?
The recommended daily intake of folate is 400 mcg, both for women and men. Obese people may benefit from higher dosages, though.
Actually, most people in the United States get enough folate. There are so many foods naturally high in folate. In addition, many foods, such as breakfast cereals and pasta, are fortified with folic acid. The fortification program increased mean folic acid intakes in the United States by about 190 mcg a day!
Do we need folic acid from supplements to lose weight?
Healthy people who follow a well-balanced diet don’t need high dosages of folic acid from supplements in order to lose weight. But, they should consume many foods high in folate.
Actually, too much folic acid from supplements can make you fat. You shouldn’t exceed the maximum safe dosage of folic acid. However, you can’t get too much folate from food.
Can high doses of folic acid from supplements cause weight gain?
Excess folic acid isn’t metabolized by the body, causing weight gain. Especially, if combined with high fat diets. Too much folic acid may cause:
- fat accumulation
- glucose intolerance
- disturbances to energy and lipid metabolism
After all, the main dietary sources of folic acid in the standard American diet are fortified breakfast cereals, bread, and pasta. These foods can be fattening when overconsumed.
In fact, there are people who take even 10 times more folic acid than the recommended daily intake!
Therefore, you should be very careful before taking folic acid supplements. Most people get more than enough folic acid from fortified foods and foods naturally high in folate.
How to enhance folate absorption?
Firstly, you could try consuming foods high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, bell peppers, or broccoli, alongside folate-rich foods. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of folate which is found in plant-based foods.
Also, you could lightly steam or sauté folate-rich vegetables to increase folate bioavailability. Cooking can break down cell walls and make nutrients more accessible.
A healthy gut is crucial for nutrient absorption as well. Consume probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables to support gut health. A fiber-rich diet also positively influences gut health.
Limiting processed foods may play a beneficial role in folate absorption rates as well. Highly processed foods may contain additives or substances that could interfere with nutrient absorption. Opt for whole, minimally processed foods to ensure maximum nutrient intake.