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Folic Acid

The basic mechanism of action underlying folic acid is its role in cellular division and DNA synthesis. Without folic acid cells do not divide properly. Folic acid is critical in the nervous system development of the foetus and for healthy red blood cell production. Folate is also required for the regeneration of methionine from homocysteine and plays a key role as a 'methyl-donor'.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

Docosahexanoic acid (C22:6, DHA) is a highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid that forms part of the central nervous and visual system structures. DHA is synthesized from its precursor, alpha-linolenic acid that is also an omega-3 fatty acid and can be obtained from vegetable oils. Marine organisms, especially fish, are good nutritional sources of DHA and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), another omega-3 fatty acid that has a role in vascular homeostasis. DHA increases membrane fluidity, improving neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and the activity of retinal photoreceptors. The fetus has high DHA requirements particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy.


  • Folic acid: 400-1200µg daily. Folic acid is well tolerated and can be used at high doses, however it may cause increased flatulence, nausea and loss of appetite.
  • DHA: Supplementation of DHA up to several grams has been used in chronic conditions. For health maintenance purposes lower levels are utilised. Optimal levels of intake for DHA are difficult to equate but healthy traditional diets would indicate a level of 2-2.5% of calories from omega 3 fatty acids.

Potential applications

The main applications of folic acid are prevention of neural tube defects, atherosclerosis (reduces elevated homocysteine levels), osteoporosis, and cervical dysplasia. Other applications include depression, anemia, crohn's disease, fatigue, restless leg syndrome, epilepsy, fatigue, and infertility. DHA is particularly needed in eye and brain development. Other applications include - cardiovascular protection including cholesterol and triglyceride reduction, rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-inflammatory disorders, behavioural disorders such as ADHD, and mental function. DHA deficiency plays an important role in a group of congenital diseases called peroxisomal disorders, which damage the protective covering (myelin) around the nerves.

Known contraindications

High doses of folic acid should be used with caution in epileptics as it may increase the risk of seizures. Those on diabetic or cardiovascular medication should consult their doctor prior to supplementing DHA or other omega-3 fatty acids at levels more than 3 or 4 grams of fish oil (or equivalent).


Folic acid works together with vitamin B12, B12, SAM, and choline. Oral contraceptives, anti-convulsants, alcohol, various chemotherapy drugs, sulfasalazine, and barbiturates, all interfere with folic acid absorption or function. DHA is commonly found along with EPA in fish oils. The use of vitamin E supplementation concurrently may help protect DHA from oxidation.

Use in conjunction with

  • Prenatal nutrition - hemp seed oil, 'high-five' multi-vitamin/mineral
  • Depression - B complex, EFAs, Rhodiola / St. John's Wort, zinc complex
  • Osteoporosis - Calcium/Magnesium and Boron powder, B complex, black cohosh, EFAs
  • Cardiovascular health - Flax seed oil, grape seed/pycnogenol, hawthorn berry, multi-vitamin/mineral, antioxidant formula
  • Cervical dysplasia - antioxidants, grapeseed/pycnogenol, EFAs, beta-carotene, trace minerals, oregon grape root


DHA is a highly purified form of DHA extracted from micro-algae and represents the closest match to the DHA found in mother's milk. This single-nutrient, vegetarian source of DHA does not contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) found in fish oils, which is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women or their infants.


© Cheryl Thallon at Viridian

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