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Can Folic Acid Help Improve Aerobic Activity?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 17 Jul 2012 | comments*Discuss
Supplements Folic Acid Sport Improvement

Folic acid is most often associated with pregnancy. Pregnant women who take supplements of folic acid before conception and during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy lower the risk of their child being born with birth defects of the brain or spine. But did you know that this vitamin, which is also present in many of the food we eat such as broccoli, fortified cereals, granary bread, nuts, oranges and peas, can also help to improve aerobic activity?

What is Folic Acid?

A B vitamin, folic acid is vital for making healthy cells, and is an important vitamin for both men and women. Known as folate in its natural form, it is also vital for an unborn child, so many women take folic acid supplements when they are just beginning to think about getting pregnant, before they actually conceive.

The reason for this is that folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, which can happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy. As many women don't even realise they are pregnant until later, it's advised to start taking supplements containing folic acid well in advance.

Supplements of folic acid are also beneficial for other health reasons. It can help to treat anaemias caused not only by pregnancy but also by poor diets, alcoholism, liver disease, kidney dialysis etc. And it has also been shown to help keep our cardio-vascular systems healthy, making us have increased energy and often able to exercise longer.

Clinical Proof

A recent study involved women who were not anaemic, giving them supplements of iron, vitamin C and folic acid to see its effect on aerobic exercise, as well as cardio-respiratory function. The trial showed that the supplements enhanced the rate of their oxygen transport as well as production of ATP, which transports energy to cells during physical activity, showing an improvement in their physical performance.

Other studies have shown that the combination of folic acid and the B vitamins B12 and B6 helped to promote a healthy cardiovascular system by lowering the body's homocysteine levels, thus increasing levels of aerobic activity and showing an improvement in sport. It's thought that a deficiency of folic acid can inhibit both muscular growth and affect the nervous system, which is why so many athletes take it as a nutritional sports supplement.


Women hoping to get pregnant should take daily supplements of 0.4mg of folic acid while they are hoping to conceive, as well as into their 12th week of pregnancy, when the spine of the foetus is still developing. Supplements are available from health food stores, your GP and in many specially formulated multi-vitamins for pregnant women, while athletes can buy special supplements combined with iron and B vitamins from a variety of health food stores and online shops. Using only a reputable supplier is recommended.

Folic acid is one vitamin where even the government recommends taking supplements instead of getting folic acid simply from the food we eat. Since supplements were recommended, the number of babies born with neural tube defects has gone down considerably. People with certain conditions such as liver disease, or those on kidney dialysis, may also benefit from folic acid supplements, as well as athletes. As with all supplements, even natural ones, consult your doctor first. High-dose supplements are not a good idea for everyone.

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