- JuliaLv 78 years agoBest Answer
Folic acid, known as folate in its natural form, is one of the B-group vitamins.
Folate has several important functions. For example, it:
works together with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells
helps reduce the risk of central nervous system defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies
A lack of folate could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.
Good sources of folate
Folate is found in small amounts in many foods. Good sources include:
fortified breakfast cereals
How much folate do I need?
Adults need 0.2mg of folate a day.
Folate cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.
Most people should be able to get the amount they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
However, if you are pregnant or thinking of having a baby, take a daily 0.4mg (400 microgram) of folic acid supplement from the time you stop using contraception until the 12th week of pregnancy. This is to help prevent birth defects of the central nervous system, such as spina bifida, in your baby.
Women who have had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect need to take 5mg of folic acid each day until the 12th week of pregnancy. This is available on prescription from your GP. Women with diabetes and those taking anti-epileptic medicines should speak to their GP for advice.
What happens if I take too much folic acid?
If you do not get enough vitamin B12, taking doses of folic acid higher than 1mg can disguise the effects of this.
An early symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is anaemia. However, taking large amounts of folic acid treats the anaemia without treating the B12 deficiency. If a vitamin B12 deficiency is not noticed, it can eventually damage the nervous system.
This is particularly a concern for older people because it becomes more difficult to absorb vitamin B12 as you get older.
What does the Department of Health advise?
The Department of Health recommends that folic acid supplements are taken by women who are pregnant or thinking of having a baby (see 'How much folate do I need?', above).
Women who are not pregnant or planning for a baby should be able to get all the folate they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
If you are taking folic acid supplements, it is important not to take too much because this could be harmful.
Taking 1mg (1,000 micrograms) or less a day of folic acid supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.