Folic acid and sun exposure might be incompatible
What is the relationship between folic acid and sun exposure? Folate is a form of water-soluble vitamin B. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, spinach, are naturally reach in folate as well as some fruits: bananas, lemons, melons and mushrooms and other foods like beef liver and kidneys. As it can be difficult to absorb enough folate from diet, in some countries folic acid is added to cereals, bread and other bakeries.
Folate deficiency can cause anaemia and a difficulty in natural bowel absorption. Folic acid supplementation is prescribed to prevent other conditions usually associated with folate deficiency in certain population of patients including the ones suffering liver and kidney diseases. Folic acid is also used to treat, prevent and improve symptoms of many other conditions and age-related degeneration (i.e. hearing loss and macular diseases).
International guidelines prescribe folic acid to women who are pregnant in the first months or are planning to be, as folate is needed to prevent miscarriages and neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord including spina bifida). Since laboratory observations indicate that folate in collected human blood is vulnerable to degradation after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, this has raised concerns about folate depletion in individuals with high sun exposure. Some years ago, a clinical study conducted in Australia tested the level of folate after a period of supplementation in young women exposed to the UVs during peak hours.
The data collected data showed that increasing solar UV radiation exposures reduces the effectiveness of folic acid supplementation by as much as 20%. The women who received the most sunlight exposure during the peak hours were found to have the most depleted levels of folic acid and even none of them were proven to be deficient some tested at the low end of the normal range. The consequences of this association may be most pronounced for vulnerable individuals, such as women who are pregnant with an history of neural tube defects or women of childbearing age with high sun exposure habits.
Therefore, if you plan a pregnancy:
- Ask to your doctor;
- Start folic acid supplementation;
- Incorporate plenty of leafy greens and folate rich foods in your diet;
- Take extra care in sun protection.