What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin (B9) that has a hand in manufacturing new cells. It also is one of six B vitamins, collectively called B complex vitamins, that are instrumental in energy production, helping to turn carbohydrates into glucose. B vitamins are water soluable so they aren’t stored in the body. Folate is found in food. Folic acid refers to the synthetic version of folate. [1 and 2]
What Are Some Sources of Folic Acid?
Some foods are natural sources of vitamin folic acid while others are fortified with it. Folate isn’t utilized as efficiently by the body, though, so supplements may be needed, even if you eat a balanced diet that includes folate-rich foods. Multivitamin formulas contain folic acid and are available as chewables and liquid. It’s also offered in tablet, lozenge and softgel form. Check nutrition facts and supplement facts on the label for folic acid/folate information. Examples of foods containing added folic acid are: [1 and 2]
Examples of foods that are a natural source of folic acid are:
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables
What Is Folic Acid Used For?
Folic acid is used for a variety of medicinal purposes, including: [1 and 2]
Prevention of serious birth defects, heart disease and cancer
Blood and heart health.
Protein and fat utilization by the body
Skin, hair, eye and liver health
Nervous system function
Brain function, and mental and emotional health
DNA and RNA assembly
Red blood cell manufacturing (with B12)
Iron function in the body (with B12)
Homocysteine (an amino acid) blood level control (with B6 and B12)
Slowing the progression of age-related hearing loss
According to research, taking folic acid may cut the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects by 72 to 100%! It may also help prevent age-related macular degeneration. However, there is not enough evidence of its effectiveness for miscarriage prevention, hearing loss, cancer, or heart disease. And results are mixed regarding its effectiveness for easing depression.  More studies are needed.
Who Needs Folic Acid?
Everyone needs folic acid to some extent, but mostly women of child-bearing age and able to become pregnant. Why? Remember that percentage mentioned above? If women have enough folic acid, their risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect is cut by 72% to 100%. That is an amazing statistic and one worth repeating.
In a nutshell, a neural tube defect is a birth defect affecting the brain and spinal cord. Two of the most common are spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida, occurring in 1 to 2 per 1000 births worldwide, happens when a fetus’s spinal column doesn’t develop properly. Resulting nerve damage causes mobility and other functional issues. Anencephaly, occurring in 1 per 1000 births worldwide, is a disorder that results in lack of brain development, either in full or in part, and babies do not survive long after birth. [1, 3 and 4]
Others who may need extra folic acid include people who are taking medication for: 
Type 2 diabetes
Inflammatory bowel disease
You may also benefit from extra folic acid if you have:
Sickle cell disease
Kidney disease (on dialysis)
More than one alcoholic drink daily
Signs and symptoms of folic acid deficiency include:
Loss of appetite
Shortness of breath
How Much Folic Acid Do I Need?
Women who can get pregnant need 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid daily, whether they plan to have a baby or not. If you’re breastfeeding, take 500 micrograms daily. Older adults should take 400 micrograms daily. Children’s dosages vary according to age. For women who have had a baby with a neural tube defect and want to have more children, or have a family member with spina bifida, the dose jumps up to 4000 micrograms daily. This requires a doctor’s prescription. [1 and 2]
Are There Any Interactions Associated with Folic Acid?
Folic Acid interacts with a variety of medications. Do not mix folic acid with: 
Tetracycline antibiotics: Folic acid hinders its absorption and usefulness
Phenytoin: Folic acid may hinder the usefulness of phenytoin and phenytoin may lower the body’s folate supply.
Methotrexate: This medication cuts the body’s supply of folic acid.
Folic Acid-reducing Medications: These medications may hinder folate absorption. Some examples include antacids, anti-seizure medication and H2 blockers.
If you’re taking any medication, consult your health care provider before taking folic acid.
Are There Any Safety Issues I Should Be Aware Of?
Folic acid can hide signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you are over 50 discuss the issue with your doctor. [1 and 2]
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause serious nervous system damage. 
Avoid a B vitamin imbalance by taking a B complex vitamin rather than a single B vitamin. 
Possible side effects include stomach issues, skin reactions, seizures and difficulty sleeping. 
Look for “USP” or “NSF” on vitamin labels. This signifies quality.
Follow all directions for supplement use, including folic acid.
Supplements can act like drugs if they are used in large amounts. Take as directed.
It is best to take a multivitamin containing folic acid and other B vitamins, or to take folic acid along with a multivitamin, because it needs other B vitamins in order to work.
Inform your health care provider of all supplements and complementary care you use.
Herbs and other supplements are not strictly regulated by the government. Product safety and consistency are not guaranteed. Effects may vary according to brand and batch.
Purchase folic acid from companies you trust, who have a good reputation.
Consult other reputable sources such as scientific journals for information on folic and any other complementary or alternative treatment before experimenting with it. Educate yourself about what you put into your body!
Although we don’t sell folic acid, you can compare quality and price of a variety of brands here at PricePlow.com. Please note that we are not doctors. We take no responsibility for the products listed here since we do not manufacture them.
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