We often associate memory loss with old age and tend to accept it as a fact of life. We attribute memory loss to a loss of brain cells. In fact, this seems to be fairly common knowledge. However, you might be surprised to learn that a lack of folic acid can contribute to age-related memory loss. The amino acid known as homocysteine (you know, the one that contributes to heart disease) has been scientifically linked to the elevated risk of developing age-related memory issues since it leads to a decrease in B vitamins and folic acid. Read this article to learn why folate is important and how you can get enough of it to prevent age-related memory issues.
What Folate Does
Our bodies need folic acid (also referred to as folate, although folate is the natural version while folic acid is synthetic) to properly function, regardless of age. Folic acid aids the body in creating new cells. It also promotes a healthy immune system and cognitive functions. Over the years, studies have expounded upon how folate deficiencies correlate with cognitive difficulties, memory loss and mood.
Why You Might Be Prematurely Aging
A folate deficiency doesn’t just impact older adults. Younger adults can also be at risk of developing memory problems due to folate deficiencies. While most of us get enough folate from our daily diets, those with autoimmune diseases are particularly at risk for developing memory loss at early ages. Many individuals with autoimmune diseases have low levels of B vitamins since their bodies can’t produce enough. People in their late 20s and early 30s can experience folate deficiency-related memory issues, as well as other cognitive difficulties (such as an inability to focus) and mood alterations.
Anyone over the age of 14 with a folate deficiency can supplement their daily diet with 400 mg of folate. While this certainly isn’t a cure for underlying issues that autoimmune diseases create, this might be a good preventative measure to take so memory problems won’t worsen later.
Signs of a Folate Deficiency
So, how can you tell if you have a folate deficiency? There are nine major symptoms to be on the lookout for. These symptoms are:
- Frequently getting ill/a poor immune system
- Experiencing development issues during pregnancy and infancy
- Mood fluctuations, especially irritability and depression
- A pallid complexion
- Extremely low energy (including chronic fatigue)
- Gastrointestinal issues (especially Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Swelling of the tongue and canker sores around the mouth
- Premature graying of the hair
Those who are most at risk of developing a folate deficiency are individuals with liver problems, those who take diabetes medications, those who take methotrexate, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
Aside from taking supplements, you can curb age-related memory problems by adding folate-rich foods to your daily intake. If you’re wondering which foods are best to include, here are just a few of the most folate-dense foods (and their daily value):
- Cooked spinach (66% DV in 1 cup)
- Beef liver (54% DV in 3 oz)
- Cooked black-eyed peas (52% DV in 1 cup)
- Asparagus (44% DV in 8 spears)
- Cooked broccoli (26% DV in one cup)
Many doctors recommend upping your folate level through consumption of these folate-rich foods. Most of these foods are also rich in other nutrients, especially other B vitamins.
Why Natural Folate Matters
Getting enough folate from food is crucial. The earlier you change your eating habits, the less likely you are to develop age-related memory problems due to a folate deficiency. Food can be used to heal. Studies have recently found that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in folate sources, helps to prevent Alzheimer’s. Synthetic folic acid has not proven to be as substantial in its effects as natural folate.
You don’t need to live in fear of developing memory problems as you age. Regardless of your current age, you can begin to protect yourself against dementia and Alzheimer’s by ensuring that you get enough folate in your diet. Even if you aren’t deficient now, it’s not a risk you want to take in the future.