Folate is Challenging Calcium as the Women’s Wonder Nutrient

May 26, 2000

Latest Folate Findings Are Published in the Journal of Nutrition’s June Issue

GAINESVILLE, Fla., May 25 /PRNewswire/ — As the nutrient for women, calcium ruled the late 1990s. But is folate surfacing as the new “wonder nutrient” for women of all ages? Here’s some folate-food for thought: In addition to folate’s protection against birth defects and anemia, mounting research suggests it may also play a part in protecting against the risks of cancer and heart disease.

For the past decade, health practitioners have been strongly recommending a diet rich in folate, also known as folic acid, to women of childbearing age to help reduce the risk of birth defects. Now a new study, the first ever to gauge folate intake necessary for elderly women ages 60-85, demonstrates that consuming folate-rich foods daily can also benefit women well into their golden years. Results of the study by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences appear in the June issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

In the study, post-menopausal women consumed a folate-rich diet, consisting of orange juice and foods fortified with folic acid, containing the daily 400 microgram recommended intake for folate. The conclusion shows these folate foods significantly decreased levels of homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease — the No. 1 killer of post-menopausal women.

A recent report based on a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that folate intakes need to be improved in select groups of women in the US population. But obtaining sufficient quantities of folate is easy, according to the American Dietetic Association. Food sources containing natural folate include orange juice, the most popular source of natural folate in the American diet, as well as green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, liver, beans and legumes. Since 1998, the federal government has required certain foods to be fortified with folic acid, including bread, cereal, pasta, flour, crackers and rice.

While fortified foods and folic acid supplements are available, health experts strongly advise women of all ages to include natural folate food sources in their diet.