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Proper Doses & Benefits of Folate for Kids
  /   Dr. John Snow

Proper Doses & Benefits of Folate for Kids

Having a child makes people think about things they’ve never considered 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 dosages can help parents support their growing child’s needs.

Folate is one of the most essential parts of a growing child’s diet, and their needs for folate begin before they’re born. Here’s how to ensure your child is getting adequate amounts of folate.

What Is Folate?

Folate is a B vitamin, also known as vitamin B9. Folate is instrumental in the formation of new red blood cells. Virtually every cell in the body relies on folate to grow and function. Folate teams up with other B vitamins, predominantly B6 and B12, to protect the heart and its vessels from some types of cardiovascular disease.

What Is the Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?

Folate and folic acid are essentially the same things. Your body can’t tell the difference between the two. Folate is the form of vitamin B9 that naturally occurs in foods. Folic acid is the form of folate synthesized for vitamins and supplements. They’re both perfectly safe.

Most multivitamins contain folate in the form of folic acid. The body only absorbs about half of the folate in foods, where 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 for the body. The body can convert it to a usable form with much less work, allowing it to take effect sooner and potentially help prevent side effects.

Folate Is Important Before Your Children Are Born

Folate is crucially important to fetal development. People who do not consume enough folate during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with congenital disabilities. Cleft palate may be correlated to prenatal folate deficiency. Serious neural tube defects like anencephaly and spina bifida are directly linked to folate intake. Evidence suggests that folic acid works effectively to prevent neural tube defects.

Pregnant people should be consuming at least 600 mcg of folate per day, and nursing people should consume 500 mcg of folate per day. Talk to your doctor about folate. In most cases, doctors will recommend folate supplements. It’s better to be sure you’re getting enough than it is to risk the health of your developing baby.

The Benefits of Folate for Kids

Folate helps the body make new blood cells and helps to keep the heart healthy. This is important for everyone, no matter their age. Children are constantly growing. Babies have about 270 mL of blood in their body, children have about 2,650 mL of blood in their body, and adults usually have over 5,000 mL of blood in their bodies.

Blood volume increases substantially as your child grows. That’s why folate is crucially important at every stage of life. The body needs folate to keep up with the growing demand for new blood cells, and once the body is done growing, it needs folate to maintain the proper amount of blood cells.

How Much Folate Does My Child Need?

Although folate is essential, the body only needs a small amount of folate each day. Most daily vitamin intake guides are measured in mg (milligrams) or IU (international units).

The body needs less than 1 mg of folate each day, so folate is generally measured in micrograms (mcg) or thousandths of a milligram.

  • Newborn to 6 months old – 65 mcg folate daily
  • Seven months old to 12 months old – 80 mcg folate daily
  • One year old to 3 years olds -- 150 mcg folate daily
  • Four years old to 8 years old – 200 mcg folate daily
  • Nine years old to 13 years old – 300 mcg folate daily
  • Over 13 years old, non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding people -- 400 mcg folate daily

While the recommended amounts will work for most people, there may be circumstances where children may need more folate. Children combatting a folate deficiency will need to use folate under the direction of their pediatrician according to a specific schedule.

Children with absorption issues may need specific supplementation for many vitamins and minerals, including folate. If this is the case, your pediatrician has likely already raised the suggestion.

Speak to your pediatrician if you believe your child may have special needs relating to vitamins or absorption. The only way to know for sure that your child isn’t getting adequate amounts of folate is through a medical examination.

If you’re worried about a deficiency, it’s best to make that appointment as soon as possible.

Can Children Have Too Much Folate?

The biggest concern with the over ingestion 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 may help reduce the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, making it difficult for parents or doctors to recognize the signs that something is wrong.

Vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t common in children who eat meat. It’s a much more significant concern for children on plant-based diets or very picky eaters who would instead try to feed the meatloaf to the dog under the table. It’s essential to identify these risk factors and work preemptively to correct them.

L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate helps reduce the potential for vitamin B9 ingestion to mask many of the important symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you’re concerned, it’s better to stick with L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate.

The Best Sources of Folate for Kids

Although foods aren’t the most readily usable source of vitamin B9, it’s still important to consume them. When possible, you should always make an active attempt to help your child meet their recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals through their diet.

Fortified Foods

Since sufficient amounts of folate are difficult to come by, many foods are fortified with extra folic acid. Cereals, bread, rice, and pasta are often enriched with essential vitamins and minerals to help keep the general population healthy. It’s best not to assume the cereal or bread you’re choosing is fortified.

You should always check the nutrition facts before purchasing enriched foods to ensure they contain adequate vitamins and minerals and have limited amounts of added sugar. Cereal can be a valuable source of folate for kids, but no source of added sugar is beneficial.

Green Vegetables

Green vegetables are a great source of folate for kids, but they’re often a source of dinnertime exhaustion for parents. While broccoli, spinach, peas, and asparagus are extremely healthy, many children can’t conceptualize why the health benefits outweigh their flavors and textures.

Picky eaters often have trouble finishing their green vegetables. The key is to have patience, include fun seasonings, and a consistent introduction to these foods.

Beef Liver

Beef liver is one of the most valuable dietary sources of folate. Parents might find that their child would rather eat an entire head of broccoli than one bite of beef liver. Although liver is among the healthiest foods, plenty of children (and many adults) have a natural aversion to it.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a household that enjoys liver as a meal protein, make sure to serve it regularly.

What if My Child Needs Folate Supplements?

If your pediatrician believes your child would benefit from folate supplements, Hiya offers the perfect solution.

Our once daily children’s chewable multivitamins contain L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, one of the safest and most effective sources of folate. In addition to Folate, Hiya supplies 14 other vitamins and minerals that picky eaters, children with allergies, or children in plant-based households might need a little help getting.

Since Hiya is dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan, it’s one of the best options for most households. Unlike most children’s multivitamins, Hiya isn’t reminiscent of candy.

Hiya is completely sugar-free and doesn’t contain any gummy junk. Our chewables are naturally sweetened with monk fruit and naturally derived fruit flavors.

Sources

Folate - Health Professional Fact Sheet | National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements

Neural Tube Defects | MedlinePlus

Getting Enough Folic Acid (Folate) | CS Mott Children's Hospital | Michigan Medicine

Whole Blood Components | Red Cross Blood Services

Vitamin B12 Deficiency StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing | National Library of Medicine

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