Folic acid is a member of the vitamin B family and is important for carrying out different processes in the body. Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid like other vitamins is not found naturally in the body, which is why it is necessary to provide it to the body from outside sources.
It is found naturally in food items like beans, legumes, citrus fruits, juices, dark green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, whole grains, liver, pork, shellfish, and poultry in the form of folate. Besides these natural sources, folic acid is also available in the form of folate present in supplements.
How Does Folic Acid Work?
Folic acid along with vitamin B12 and vitamin C, helps the body to create, use, and breakdown new proteins. The human body uses folic acid for cell formation and multiplication, formation of red blood cells and white blood cells, and DNA replication. Moreover, intake of the right amount of folic acid before and during pregnancy helps prevent birth defects like spina bifida. Folic acid is also used to treat conditions like megaloblastic anemia, heart conditions, and depression. It is even heard that some people take folic acid to prevent conditions associated with a folic acid deficiency such as liver disease, ulcerative colitis, kidney dialysis, etc., from arising.
Proper Folic Acid Dosage
The amount of folic acid dosage depends on the causative factor of the deficiency. Around 400 mcg per day is the recommended dietary allowance for healthy adults. The dietary allowance for children between 1-13 years of age will range from 150 mcg per day to 300 mcg per day. Folic acid deficiency is not a common phenomenon in healthy people. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need higher doses of folic acid, about 600 mcg per day. For people with deficiencies, the recommended dose can vary from 400 mcg to 1000 mcg. The exact amount will depend on the severity of the deficiency and health condition.
What are the Side Effects of Folic Acid?
When one takes high doses of folic acid, that is more than 1000 mcg a day, then there is the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency being masked. This is detrimental because folic acid from the supplement can correct anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, however, the nerve damage caused by the vitamin B12 deficiency goes undetected. The side effects are as follows:
- Abdominal cramps
- Gas and bloating
- Zinc deficiency
- Psychotic behavior
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Hyperactivity, irritability, or excitability
These side effects are not observed when a normal dosage is consumed. High doses are also seen to increase the risk of cancer, age-related cognitive problems, and cardiovascular disease.
Before taking folic acid supplements, you should always consult your health care provider. If you feel you are experiencing some side effects, contact your health care provider immediately. The health care provider will be able to diagnose and treat the problem. The best way to prevent side effects is by consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet that will furnish the body with the necessary folic acid levels.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.