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Folic acid and folate are a water-soluble B complex vitamin, meaning that it remains in the body for a short time. Folic acid (the man-made form of the vitamin) is found in supplements and fortified foods, while folates come from food sources (e.g., green vegetables, mushrooms, liver, bananas, oranges, and tomato juice).
Folic acid is easier to absorb and for the body to use than folates from food. When sold as supplements, the terms folic acid and folate are often used interchangeably and they are synonymous with each other.
How is this product usually used?
Folic acid is taken by mouth and is available in different forms that may include chewable tablets and gummies, capsules, drops, powders, strips, and liquids. The recommended dosage of folate ranges from 15 µg to 199 µg per day for children and adolescents 1 to 13 years of age, and from 30 µg to 199 µg for people 14 years of age and over. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of folate during pregnancy is 600 µg and during breast-feeding is 500 µg. Some people who have severe deficiency as diagnosed by their doctor may need to take higher doses.
Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What is this product used for?
Folic acid is important to help maintain good health. It is also important in the development of red blood cells and production of genetic material known as DNA. This supplement is effective for treating different types of anemia (a condition where the number of healthy red blood cells in blood is lower than normal) caused by low levels of folic acid in the body.
Folic acid is also used to treat or prevent folate deficiency when the dietary intake is deficient (malnutrition) or in people who have disorders that reduce the body’s ability to take in nutrients from food (malabsorption) such as ulcerative colitis.
Folic acid is particularly important during pregnancy because low levels of folic acid in the mother can cause neural tube defect, a birth defect where the tissue surrounding the developing spinal cord of a baby doesn’t close properly. Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What else should I be aware of?
Folic acid is strongly recommended for expectant mothers to prevent neural tube defect in babies. It is generally safe for pregnant or breast-feeding women when used in recommended amounts.
Folic acid is often used for people who are on low-dose methotrexate for long periods of time (methotrexate is commonly used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis). This will help prevent mouth sores, nausea, or vomiting, or other liver side effects that can be caused by methotrexate.
Folic acid has also been studied with vitamins B6 and B12 to help prevent heart disease and to treat age-related macular degeneration (a type of vision loss). Some research shows that this combination of supplements may help reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
When taken in recommended doses, folic acid is well tolerated. Higher doses of folic acid can cause side effects like stomach cramps, diarrhea, rash, sleep disturbances, irritability, and confusion.
Folic acid may interact with certain seizure medications. Check with your pharmacist if you are concerned.
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
- Health Canada. Licensed Natural Health Products database. Folate. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=90 (Accessed 16 March 2014)
- Folic acid (monograph). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. (Accessed online 16 March 2014)
- American Cancer Society. Folic Acid. Available at http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/folic-acid. Accessed 16 March 2014.
- Folic Acid. Natural Standard database. Accessed 16 March 2014.
- Health Canada. Dietary Reference Intake. Updated 2010 Novmber 29. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_vitam_tbl-eng.php. Accessed 25 April 2016.
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