The Right Folate Dosage & Benefits for Children
Having children makes people think about things they never thought about before. Parents want to know what each vitamin is and its role in the health and development of their children.
A thorough understanding of vitamins, minerals and proper dosage can help parents support the needs of their growing child.
Read: Benefits, Food Sources and Intake of Folic Acid Folic acid
is one of the most important parts of a growing child's diet, and their need for folate begins before they are born. Here's how to make sure your child is getting an adequate amount of folate.
What is Folate?
Folate is a B vitamin, also known as vitamin B9. Folate plays a role in the formation of new red blood cells. Almost every cell in the body depends on folate to grow and function.
Folate works together with other B vitamins, especially B6 and B12, to protect the heart and blood vessels from certain types of cardiovascular disease.
What is the Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?
Folate and folic acid are basically the same thing. Your body cannot tell the difference between the two. Folate is a form of vitamin B9 that is naturally found in food. Folic acid is the synthesized form of folate for vitamins and supplements. They are both very safe.
Most multivitamins contain folate in the form of folic acid. The body only absorbs about half of the folate in the diet, of which folic acid is substantially more bioavailable.
The body will use up to 85% of the folic acid it receives, which makes folic acid a better way to provide the body with vitamin B9.
That's where L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate comes in. L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate is a form of folate that works just as well as folic acid but is much gentler on the body.
The body can convert it to a usable form with much less work, allowing it to work faster and potentially helping prevent side effects.
Important Folate Before Children Are Born
Folate is very important for fetal development. People who do not consume enough folate during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with congenital defects.
Cleft palate may correlate with prenatal folate deficiency. Serious neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida are directly related to folate intake. Evidence shows that folic acid is effective at preventing neural tube defects.
Pregnant people should consume at least 600 mcg of folate per day, and people who are breastfeeding should consume 500 mcg of folate per day. Talk to your doctor about folate.
In most cases, your doctor will recommend a folate supplement. It's better to make sure you're getting enough than to jeopardize the health of your developing baby.
Benefits of Folate for Children
Folate helps the body make new blood cells and helps maintain a healthy heart. This is important for everyone, regardless of their age.
The children continue to grow. Babies have about 270 mL of blood in their bodies, children have about 2,650 mL of blood in their bodies, and adults usually have more than 5,000 mL of blood in their bodies .
Blood volume increases substantially as your child grows. That's why folate is so important at every stage of life.
The body needs folate to meet the ever-increasing demand for new blood cells, and once the body is done growing, it needs folate to maintain the right number of blood cells.
How Much Folate Do Children Need?
Although folate is very important, the body only needs a small amount of folate each day. Most daily vitamin intake guidelines are measured in mg (milligrams) or IU (international units).
The body needs less than 1 mg of folate daily, so folate is generally measured in micrograms (mcg) or thousandths of a milligram.
- Newborns up to 6 months – 65 mcg of folate daily
- Seven months to 12 months – 80 mcg of folate daily
- Children one year to 3 years -- 150 mcg of folate daily
- Four years to 8 years – 200 mcg of folate daily
- Nine years to 13 years – 300 mcg of folate daily
- Over 13 years, not pregnant, not breastfeeding people - 400 mcg of folate daily
While the recommended amount will work for most people, there may be circumstances in which children may need more folate.
Children fighting folate deficiency need to take folate under the direction of their pediatrician according to a specific schedule.
Children with absorption problems may need special supplements for many vitamins and minerals, including folate. If this is the case, your child's doctor has likely made that suggestion.
Talk to your pediatrician if you believe your child may have special needs related to vitamins or absorption. The only way to know for sure that your child is not getting an adequate amount of folate is through a medical examination.
If you are concerned about a shortage, it is best to make the appointment as soon as possible.
Can Children Have Too Much Folate?
The biggest concern with overconsumption of folate is its ability to disguise a legitimate vitamin B12 deficiency. The body uses folic acid and vitamin B12 in very similar ways. A little extra folic acid can help reduce symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency , making it difficult for parents or doctors to recognize signs that something is wrong.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is not common in children who eat meat. This is a much more significant concern for children on plant-based diets or very picky eaters who will try to feed minced meat to dogs under the table.
It is very important to identify these risk factors and work first to correct them.
L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate helps reduce the potential for vitamin B9 consumption to mask many of the important symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you are concerned, it is better to stick with L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate.
Best Folate Source for Kids
While food isn't the easiest source of vitamin B9 to use, it's still important to consume it. If possible, you should always make an active effort to help your child meet the recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals through their diet.
Because adequate amounts of folate are hard to come by, many foods are fortified with extra folic acid. Cereals, breads, rice and pasta are often fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to help maintain people's health. It's best not to assume that the cereal or bread you choose is fortified.
You should always check the nutrition facts before buying fortified foods to make sure they contain adequate vitamins and minerals and have a limited amount of added sugar. Cereals can be a valuable source of folate for children, but there are no beneficial sources of added sugar.
Leafy greens are a great source of folate for children, but they are often a source of dinner fatigue for parents. While broccoli, spinach, peas, and asparagus are very healthy, many children cannot understand why the health benefits outweigh the taste and texture.
Picky eaters often have a hard time finishing their greens. The key is to have patience, incorporate fun seasonings, and consistently introduce these foods.
Beef liver is one of the most valuable dietary sources of folate. Parents may find that their child prefers to eat a whole head of broccoli over a single bite of beef liver. Although liver is one of the healthiest foods, many children (and many adults) have a natural aversion to it.
If you are lucky enough to live in a house that enjoys liver as a dietary protein, be sure to serve it regularly.