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What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid, also known as folate is one of the B vitamins (B9). Folic acid is a synthetic form used in vitamins and to fortify food. Both versions of vitamin B9 are converted into the metabolically active form, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate. It has a number of important functions in the human body, such as forming red blood cells, metabolizing protein, and reducing levels of homocysteine (a heart disease risk factor) in the blood.

Vitamin B9 Benefits and Uses

Folate is very important during pregnancy as it not only helps with the division and growth of cells; it also prevents neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are problems that affect the brain and spine of a developing baby early on in pregnancy. The most common forms of neural tube defect are spina bifida and anencephaly. If you have given birth to a child with a neural tube defect, this increases the risk of you having another child who is also affected[1].

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) each year in the United States, 3,000 pregnancies are adversely affected by anencephaly and spina bifida[2]. Spina bifida is a birth defect that prevents the spinal column and backbone from closing. It develops around the fourth week of pregnancy and is usually detected before the baby is born. The cause of this disorder is not known though it has been linked to low folate levels during pregnancy[3].

Vitamin B9 Sources

Natural sources of vitamin B9 include:

  • Beans
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fortified cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Peas
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Milk

Folate Deficiency

Signs that you may have a folic acid deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea and pale skin. If your folic acid levels are low you not only increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, you are also more likely to have a premature baby or a baby with a low birth weight (less than five and a half pounds). Folic acid may also help to decrease your baby’s risk of other defects including some types of heart defect, cleft palate, and cleft lip. The recommended daily intake for vitamin B9 is described in terms of Dietary Folate Equavalents (DFE) by the NIH:

  • Children 9-13 years: 300 mcg DFE
  • Teens 14-18 years: 400 mcg DFE
  • Adults 19-50 years: 400 mcg DFE
  • Adults 51-70 years: 400 mcg DFE
  • Adults 71+ years: 400 mcg DFE
  • Pregnant teens and women: 600 mcg DFE
  • Breastfeeding teens and women: 500 mcg DFE[4]

1 DFE = 1 microgram (mcg) food folate = 0.6 mcg folic acid from supplements and fortified foods. For example a pregnant teen/or women requiring 600mcg DFE from folate would require 1,000 mcg folate from supplements

Folic Acid Side Effects

Folic acid is considered safe if taken in the recommended dose. In some people, folic acid may cause side effects such as an upset stomach.

Folic Acid Overdose

Folic acid may be unsafe if taken in doses which exceed 1000mcg per day. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, hives, and seizures. Toxic levels of folic acid may induce a heart attack in people who suffer from heart problems[5].

Folic Acid Supplements

Folic acid is a crucial component of DrFormulas™ Prenatal Vitamins with DHA. Taking this prenatal supplement with folate before and during pregnancy may reduce your baby’s risks of developing neural tube defects, including spinal bifida, by approximately 70 percent[6]. Folate supplement may also reduce the risk of your baby experiencing certain other congenital malformations such as cleft lip/palate, congenital heart defects, limb reduction defects, urinary tract defects, and congenital hydrocephalus[7][8][9][10][11].

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is another important component of DrFormulas™ Prenatal Vitamins with DHA. DHA is a necessary structural component of the brain, nervous system, and eye and is rapidly incorporated into the developing brain during the last trimester of pregnancy and first two years of infancy. DrFormulas Prenatal Vitamins with DHA consists of a fish oil that is molecularly distilled, ultra-purified, and concentrated to be rich in DHA.

For the highest quality supplements, choose DrFormulas and experience the many health benefits of folate today!