April 17, 2019

Eggs and the Importance of Folic Acid

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, and there was a strong public health message to ensure women of child-bearing age were taking the vitamin folic acid. I was always fascinated that researchers could drill down to such a specific link between one vitamin and maternal health. Since eggs are a source of folate, I’ve always been interested in this nutrient. In addition to maternal health, it has a bunch of other links to human health, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today.

What’s In A Name?

The first thing that is sort of confusing about folic acid is the many names it goes by. It’s technically called vitamin B9 and it takes on several different forms. Here’s how to tell them apart:

- Folate: the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 – it’s what’s in eggs.

- Folic acid: the synthetic form of vitamin B9 – it’s what you find in supplements or enriched foods such as bread and pasta.

Like most things in the world of nutrition, it’s always better to get naturally occurring folate from foods, rather than relying on synthetic folic acid from supplements. Foods that contain natural folate include:

- Eggs

- Asparagus

- Leafy greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts

- Beans and lentils

- Nuts and seeds

- Avocado

- Banana

- Citrus fruits

- Corn

- Cantaloupe

- Foods that contain synthetic folic acid include:

- Bread

- Pasta

- Fortified cereals

- Anything made with enriched white flour.

Of course, folate from food may not always be enough to cover basic needs, as is the case with women who are considering having a baby. Food alone may not provide enough folate, so it’s recommended that all women of child-bearing age take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 mcg . This helps prevent major birth defects in the baby’s brain ( anencephaly ) and spine ( spina bifida ), which occur very early on in a pregnancy (3-4 weeks after conception), before most women know they are pregnant. That’s why it’s vital for women to take folic acid when they are even considering becoming pregnant.

Folate and Eggs

Our body needs folate because it’s a piece of the make-up of DNA and other genetic material, and part of what helps cells divide. Pretty important! Adults require 400 mcg per day, while pregnant women need 600 mcg/day.

Starting your day with two eggs can provide 30% of your day’s requirement of folate. And, if you choose Burnbrae Farm’s Naturegg Omega Plus eggs, two eggs will provide 60% of your folate requirement. Toss in some vegetables for even more of this important vitamin. Try this folate-rich recipe: Herb & Goat Cheese Omelette with Asparagus .

Other Important Info about Folic Acid

I’ve recently read that folate and folic acid are being studied for their connections to decreasing heart disease and some forms of cancer. But more research is needed in these areas. Most of these studies focus on folic acid (supplements), which are easier to administer and monitor. According to the National Institutes of Health in the US, the following links are being researched:

- Folate and Esophageal Cancer: A recent study found that getting enough dietary folate may have a protective effect against esophageal cancer.

- Folic Acid and Colorectal Cancer: The right supplemental dose may decrease cancer risk, but high doses of folic acid might increase the risk of colorectal cancer and possibly other cancers in some people. Studies have found that taking high doses after colorectal cancer begins might speed up its progression. People should not take more than 1000 mcg folic acid per day.

- Heart Disease and Stroke: Years of studies have focused on the link between folic acid and lower levels of homocysteine, a substance in blood that’s linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease. Folic acid supplements do help lower homocysteine levels, but these supplements do not actually decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some studies show they appear to provide protection from stroke .

- There has been some link made with folic acid supplements and a reduction in  inflammation. However, these studies were done using high quantities of the vitamin (from pills not from food).

Research about folate and disease is constantly evolving, and I will continue to watch it and share the latest findings with you!

Margaret Hudson

President, Burnbrae Farms