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Folate (folic acid)

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 10, 2023.

Overview

Folate (vitamin B-9) is important in red blood cell formation and for healthy cell growth and function. The nutrient is crucial during early pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine.

Folate is found mainly in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas and nuts. Fruits rich in folate include oranges, lemons, bananas, melons and strawberries. The synthetic form of folate is folic acid. It's in an essential component of prenatal vitamins and is in many fortified foods such as cereals and pastas.

A diet lacking foods rich in folate or folic acid can lead to a folate deficiency. Folate deficiency can also occur in people who have conditions, such as celiac disease, that prevent the small intestine from absorbing nutrients from foods (malabsorption syndromes).

The recommended daily amount of folate for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). Adult women who are planning pregnancy or could become pregnant should be advised to get 400 to 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day.

What the research says

Research on use of folate and oral folic acid supplements for specific conditions shows:

Our take

Generally safe

For most people, it's best to get folate from food. A balanced diet usually provides all you need. However, folic acid supplements are recommended for women who are planning to become pregnant, could become pregnant, are pregnant or are breast-feeding.

Folic acid supplements can also help people who have poor diets or conditions that interfere with the body's ability to absorb folate.

Safety and side effects

When used orally at appropriate doses, folic acid is likely safe.

Oral use of folic acid can cause:

People with allergies might have a reaction to folic acid supplements. Warning signs of an allergic reaction include:

Excess folic acid is excreted in urine.

A high folate intake can mask vitamin B-12 deficiency until its neurological effects become irreversible. This can typically be remedied by taking a supplement containing 100 percent of the daily value of both folic acid and vitamin B-12.

Interactions

Possible interactions include:

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