Folic Acid: What is it? What is it for? Dosage, Research, Safety, Side Effects and Interactions

Did you know that there are 13 vitamins that are vital and essential for your survival?

Among these is the line of B vitamins with names like thiamine (for vitamin B1), riboflavin (for vitamin B2) and niacin (for vitamin B3).

Then there is folate, incredibly important to our health, no matter our stage of life.

Folate (folic acid is a form of vitamin B-9 that can be dissolved in water) is important in the formation of red blood cells and for the growth and function of healthy cells. The vitamin group folate is most active when it is converted to Levomefolic Acid (MF).

It is a key ingredient in the manufacture of nucleic acid that is part of all genetic material.

Folate is a group of chemically complex substances that supply the body with chemically simple methyl groups. The body needs folates but cannot make them from scratch and therefore must get them from food or dietary supplements.

The nutrient is crucial during early pregnancy to reduce the risk of brain and spinal birth defects .

Folate is vital in all stages of life, from early development in the womb to birth and into adulthood. But for many people, lifestyle factors, popularly used medications, or common genetic mutations deplete their folate stores.

For these people and for the rest of us, methylfolate is the best dietary form of folic acid.

All of our cells also need levomefolic acid to repair damage to their DNA (which is happening all the time, even in healthy cells).

Methyl coming mainly from folate is also very important for epigenetics (turning genes on and off using methyl) and allowing cells to grow, maintain their structure and produce new cells.

Our 200 billion brain cells need levomefolic acid for all of these reasons. But they also need levomefolic acid to allow them to isolate nerve cells, important neurotransmitters, even an important hormone.

However, levomefolic acid is not commonly found in food and is very rarely provided by dietary supplements.

The body’s stores of levomefolic acid and other methyl resources are in danger of depletion due to alcohol abuse, smoking, and high consumption of medications such as:

Psychotherapeutic antacids, antibiotics, pain relievers, certain diuretics, estrogen replacement therapy, oral anticonvulsants, anticonvulsants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

A poor diet, poor digestive and absorptive function, and sub-optimal kidney function can deplete the body’s folate stores.

During pregnancy, the demand for folic acid increases considerably due to the needs of the developing baby. Supplementing with levomefolic acid helps provide your brain and body with optimized folate, to improve your chances of maintaining health and well-being.

Folate is found primarily 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 is an essential component of prenatal vitamins and is found in many fortified foods, such as cereals and pasta.

A diet lacking in 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 food (malabsorption syndromes).


The recommended daily amount of folic acid for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). Adult women who plan to become pregnant or could become pregnant should receive 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid per day.

Talk to a doctor for recommendations on how much to take and how often. 1 milligram (mg) per day is often prescribed.

What is folic acid for

Vitamin B-9 includes folate and folic acid and is important for various functions in the body. Folic acid is the main responsible for healthy cell growth. These cells are found within the tissues of the skin, as well as in the hair and nails.

According to the British Dietetic Association (ADB), folic acid is vital for producing red blood cells, as well as:

  • The synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA.
  • Helping fast cell division and growth.
  • Improve brain health.


A recent study linked folic acid deficiency to autism. The researchers concluded:

“Periconceptional folic acid [before conception and during early pregnancy] may reduce the risk of [autism spectrum disorder] in those with inefficient folate metabolism.”

Cleft lip and palate

A review of the literature carried out in 2014 concluded that folic acid supplementation could reduce the risk of cleft palate.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Folic acid is often used to support the prescription of methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis.

Methotrexate is an effective drug for this condition. However, it is also known to remove folate from the body. This can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in 20 to 65 percent of people who use the drug.

However, folic acid supplements have been shown to reduce the gastrointestinal side effects of methotrexate by 79 percent. Although the evidence is mixed and more research is needed.

Promotes a healthy pregnancy

Due to its involvement in DNA synthesis and important enzymatic reactions, folic acid is a critical component of a pregnancy diet.

During pregnancy, your folate requirements even increase to help support the growth and development of the fetus.

In fact, many health professionals even recommend starting to supplement or eat more foods with folic acid before pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

One of the best-known benefits of folate is its ability to reduce the risk of neural tube defects that can affect the brain, spine, or spinal cord.

However, meeting your folate needs can also lower your risk of anemia, preterm labor, and complications during pregnancy.

May lower the risk of cancer

Emerging research shows that folate may help prevent certain types of cancer.

According to a review published by the St. Michael Hospital Department of Medicine, maintaining adequate folate levels or increasing folate intake from dietary sources and supplements may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer and breast cancer for certain populations.

Other studies have found that folate intake could be associated with a lower risk of colorectal, esophageal, and ovarian cancers as well.

Note, however, that other studies have found that consuming too much folic acid from supplementation and fortified foods may actually be associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

More research is needed to fully understand the role folic acid and folate can play in the prevention and development of cancer.

Supports heart health

Heart disease affects approximately 92.1 million Americans and accounts for nearly a third of all deaths worldwide.

Fortunately, studies show that folic acid benefits heart health and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Higher levels of folic acid are associated with lower levels of homocysteine, a type of amino acid that can contribute to blood clots and cause arteries to narrow and harden.

Increasing your folate intake can help lower homocysteine ​​levels to prevent heart disease. In fact, a 2012 analysis from China found that every 200 microgram increase in folate intake was associated with a 12 percent decrease in the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Build strong bones

In addition to being associated with an increased risk of heart disease, elevated homocysteine ​​levels can also affect bone health.

Studies show that folic acid can lower homocysteine ​​levels and impact the speed of bone metabolism to promote better bone health.

In a 2014 study, increased plasma homocysteine ​​was associated with reduced folate levels and reduced bone mineral density.

Additionally, another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that higher homocysteine ​​levels were a risk factor for osteoporotic fractures in older adults.

Improves cognitive function

Low folate levels, along with other B vitamins like vitamin B12, have been associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even found that low folate was associated with impaired cognitive function in the elderly.

A 2016 study found that folic acid supplementation was able to effectively improve cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Another study published in 2005 also found that a higher intake of folic acid was linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Reduces symptoms of restless leg syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a condition characterized by the need to move the legs, especially at night.

While anyone can be affected by restless legs syndrome, pregnant women are especially prone to developing the disease.

Studies show that low levels of folic acid can be associated with the development of restless leg syndrome, especially during pregnancy.

Interestingly, according to an article published in Alternative Medicine Review, the administration of folic acid can help reduce the symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

Evidence and research

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

Birth defects : Research has shown that folic acid supplements can prevent neural tube birth defects.

Taking a daily prenatal vitamin, ideally starting three months before conception, can help ensure that women are getting enough of this essential nutrient.

Folic acid deficiency : Folic acid deficiency occurs when there is not enough folate or folic acid in the body.

Since folate is important for making and maintaining red blood cells, inadequate levels can mean that there are not enough red blood cells to supply the body with a healthy level of oxygen.

This condition can appear in people who require higher amounts of folic acid and who are not taking supplements, such as pregnant and lactating women.

Nutritional folate deficiency is treated with oral folic acid supplements. This type of deficiency is no longer a problem in many countries that fortify foods such as cereal and pasta with folic acid.

Folic acid deficiency anemia can occur in people with underlying conditions, such as sickle cell anemia. It can also affect people with conditions that affect the absorption of folate.

Alcohol abuse or kidney disease can reduce the body’s ability to effectively absorb folate.

In addition to anemia and congenital deformities, folic acid deficiency can cause other health problems, including:

  • An increased risk of developing clinical depression.
  • Possible problems with memory and brain function.
  • An increased risk of potentially developing allergic diseases.
  • An increased potential long-term risk of lower bone density.

The Medical Journal of Australia reported in January 2011 that the prevalence of folate deficiency in the country had decreased considerably since the introduction of mandatory fortification of wheat flour in baking.

The heart, blood vessels and stroke : Fortunately, studies show that folic acid benefits heart health and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Higher levels of folic acid are related to lower levels of homocysteine, folic acid works with vitamins B-6 and B-12 to control homocysteine ​​levels in the blood.

Elevated levels of homocysteine ​​can increase your risk of heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease), it is a type of amino acid that can contribute to blood clots and cause arteries to narrow and harden.

In fact, a 2012 analysis from China found that every 200 microgram increase in folate intake was associated with a 12 percent decrease in the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Depression : Some evidence suggests that folic acid might be helpful in treating depression.

Dementia : There is not enough evidence to support folic acid supplementation for the prevention of dementia.

Hair Growth : Research establishing folic acid as a hair growth method is minimal. A study, published in early 2017, looked at 52 adults with premature gray hair.

The researchers behind the study found deficiencies in folic acid and vitamins B-7 and B-12. However, further controlled studies are needed to determine if folic acid alone can help with hair growth.

Generally safe

For most people, the best thing to do is get folate from food. A balanced diet generally provides everything you need.

However, folic acid supplements are recommended for women who plan to become pregnant, may become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

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

A folic acid overdose can occur when you take too many supplements or eat a large amount of fortified foods, but not if you eat folate in natural foods. Taking more than 1,000 mcg per day can lead to nerve damage, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

Folic acid and pregnancy

All women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should get more folic acid, according to the March of Dimes, a research organization focused on preventing deformity and death in newborns.

If you are pregnant or planning to have a baby, it is vital that you get proper nutrition, and you especially need to make sure you get enough useful folic acid.

They also recommend that women take folic acid before becoming pregnant and for the first 4 weeks after conception.

The baby’s heart and brain are already forming only 6 weeks after conception, a woman who is low in folate and becomes pregnant may be at a health disadvantage for her pregnancy even before she knows she is pregnant.

Every woman capable of becoming pregnant should take daily folic acid supplements. Women over the age of 14 should take 400 micrograms (mcg) per day, and this should increase to 600 mcg during pregnancy.

Women should maintain a daily intake of 500 mcg while breastfeeding.

The online journal PLOS Medicine wrote in 2009 that women who take folic acid supplements for at least 12 months before becoming pregnant could reduce their risk of having a premature baby by more than 50 percent. The researchers concluded:

“Preconception folic acid supplementation is associated with a 50 to 70 percent reduction in the incidence of early spontaneous preterm birth.”

Folic acid is essential for the growth of the spinal cord in the uterus. It is important for an expectant mother to consume enough folic acid during the early stages of development.

This is because the spinal cord is one of the first parts of the body to form in the uterus.

Because levomefolic acid is essential for fetal development, it is recommended that all women of reproductive age take folic acid before, during, and after pregnancy.

Crucial from the start

Folate is the most researched nutrient for pregnancy, yet most prenatal vitamins and other multivitamins continue to provide synthetic folic acid.

The methyl groups from levomefolic acid are absolutely critical for the proper development of the baby’s heart and nervous system and all other organs.

Levomefolic acid methyl is necessary from the moment of fertilization of the human ovum, through the development of the brain, heart and other organs, until birth and throughout a person’s life.

Crucial levomepholic acid after pregnancy

After birth, levomefolic acid remains extremely crucial for the development of a baby.

As the mother’s body works at its best to maintain sufficient levels of breast milk, its stores of methyl and folate are in danger of being depleted, leaving both the baby and the mother vulnerable to all the problems that deficiency entails. folate.

By continuing to supplement with levomefolic acid, which is the predominant folate in breast milk, a mother can be assured that she is supporting her baby’s continued growth while protecting her own mood and well-being.

Levomefolic acid avoids the uncertainties and limitations associated with the use of folic acid in prenatal supplements. Better-fed mothers have healthier babies with well-developed brains.

Children of mothers who are well fed and breastfed have substantially better chances for optimal health as they mature into adults.

Side effects

When used orally in appropriate doses, folic acid is likely safe. There are no serious side effects when taking folic acid. In rare cases, people report an upset stomach.

Even if a person takes more folic acid than necessary, there is no cause for concern. Because folic acid is soluble in water, any excess will pass naturally into the urine.

Folic acid supplements are available to buy online. Oral use of folic acid can cause:

  • Bad taste in the mouth.
  • Sickness.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion.
  • Irritability.
  • Altered sleep pattern.

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

  • Acne.
  • Itch.
  • Stains.
  • Difficult breathing
  • Excess folic acid is excreted in the urine.

Folic acid supplementation is generally considered safe for human use. However, in rare cases, allergic or anaphylactoid reactions have occurred.

Patients who experience any signs or symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, should seek emergency medical help.

A high intake of folate can mask vitamin B-12 deficiency until its neurological effects become irreversible.

While folic acid is technically a B vitamin, it is not included in many vitamin B complex supplements. Instead, you may need to look for the nutrient in multivitamins.

This can usually be remedied by taking a supplement that contains 100 percent of the daily value for folic acid and vitamin B-12.

It is also available as a separate supplement. Make sure the supplement has 100 percent of the daily value you need.


Possible interactions include:

Anticonvulsants : Taking folic acid with fosphenytoin (Cerebyx), phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek), or primidone (Mysoline) can lower the concentration of the drug in the blood.

Barbiturates : Taking folic acid with a medicine that acts as a central nervous system depressant (barbiturate) could decrease the effectiveness of the medicine.

Methotrexate (Trexall) : Taking folic acid with this drug used to treat cancer could interfere with its effectiveness.

Pyrimethamine (Daraprim) : Taking folic acid with this antimalarial medicine could reduce the effectiveness of the medicine.

What to eat

Folate deficiency can contribute to many negative symptoms, including weakness, fatigue, headaches, and irritability. Sometimes it can also indicate that there may be other underlying nutrient deficiencies as it often occurs alongside other vitamin deficiencies.

If you think you may have a folate deficiency, talk to your doctor about the folate levels tested.

Getting folic acid from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes is the best way to meet your folic acid needs without the risk of adverse side effects.

However, if you decide to add folic acid from foods or fortified folic acid supplements to your diet, consider how much you are consuming. Keep your intake below 1,000 micrograms per day to avoid adverse side effects and possible negative health effects.

Certain whole foods are natural sources of folic acid, such as:

  • Beans.
  • Broccoli.
  • Citrus fruits.
  • Green leafy vegetables.
  • Meat.
  • Walnuts.
  • Poultry.
  • Wheat germ.

Keep in mind that the more processed your food is, the less folate and other nutrients it may contain.

However, if you are looking to get more folic acid in your diet, you can look to certain fortified foods that have 100 percent of the daily value for this nutrient and more. Options include fortified cereals, white rice, and bread.

Orange juice is another good source of folic acid, but it also contains a large amount of natural sugar.

While folic acid is an integral part of the nutrients your body needs to form new cells, this nutrient may not treat hair growth alone.

Instead, focus on making sure you’re getting enough folic acid for your overall health. In return, your hair will benefit as well.

Consult your doctor if you have specific concerns about hair growth. If you are suddenly losing large amounts of hair and are balding, this could indicate an underlying medical problem, such as alopecia or a hormonal imbalance. Such conditions cannot be treated with folic acid.