Last updated on October 23rd, 2022 at 10:14 am
Folate deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide. It affects over 2 billion people. A lack of folate may lead to neural tube defects.
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(Also Folate, vitamin B9) Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin called folate. Folate plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into her brain and spinal cord. The best food sources of folic acid are fortified cereals.
Folate in Pregnancy
Folic acid is folate (a B vitamin) that everyone needs. If you can get pregnant or are pregnant, folic acid is especially important. Folic acid protects unborn babies against serious birth defects. You can get folic acid from vitamins and fortified foods, such as bread, pasta, and cereals. Folate is found naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables, oranges, and beans.
Why we need folate?
Everyone needs folic acid to be healthy. But it is especially important for women:
- Folic acid protects unborn children against serious birth defects called neural tube defects. These birth defects happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. Folic acid might also help prevent other types of birth defects and early pregnancy loss (miscarriage). Experts recommend all women get enough folic acid even if you are not trying to get pregnant.
- To keep the blood healthy by helping red blood cells form and grow. Not getting enough folic acid can lead to a type of anaemia called folate-deficiency anaemia. Folate-deficiency anaemia is more common in women of childbearing age than in men.
How do I get folate?
You can get folic acid in two ways.
- Through the foods you eat. Folate is found naturally in some foods, including spinach, nuts, and beans. Folic acid is found in fortified foods (called “enriched foods”), such as bread, pasta, and cereals. Look for the term “enriched” on the ingredients list to find out whether the food has added folic acid.
- As a vitamin. Most multivitamins sold contain 400 micrograms, or 100% of the daily value, of folic acid.
What is folate deficiency anemia?
Folate-deficiency anemia is a type of anemia that happens when you do not get enough folate. Folate-deficiency anemia is most common during pregnancy. Other causes of folate-deficiency anemia include alcoholism and certain medicines to treat seizures, anxiety, or arthritis.
The symptoms of folate-deficiency anemia include:
- Pale skin
- Sore mouth and tongue
If you have folate-deficiency anemia, your doctor may recommend taking folic acid vitamins and eating more foods with folate.
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What causes low folate?
A diet low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and fortified cereals is the major cause of folate deficiency. In addition, overcooking your food can sometimes destroy the vitamins. Folate levels in your body can become low in just a few weeks if you don’t eat enough folate-rich foods.
How do you treat low folate?
Folate deficiency anemia is prevented and treated by eating a healthy diet. This includes foods rich in folic acid, such as nuts, leafy green vegetables, enriched breads and cereals, and fruit. Your doctor will also likely prescribe you a daily folic acid supplement.
Is folic acid and vitamin b12 the same thing?
No. Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9 are not the same. B12 is also important for normal nerve cell function. B12 and folate (also known as folic acid or vitamin B9) are nutrients that cannot be produced in the body and must be supplied by the diet.
Is folic acid the same as folate?
Folate is the generic name for a type of B vitamin. It’s found naturally in foods as folate. Folic acid is the man made version sold as supplements and added to fortified foods. Folate and folic acid have the same effects.
What is a good folate level?
The reference range of the plasma folate level varies by age, as follows : Adults – 2-20 ng/mL, 2-20 μg/L, or 4.5-45.3 nmol/L. Children – 5-21 ng/mL, 5-21 μg/L, or 11.3-47.6 nmol/L.
Connection between Vitamin B12 and Folate
Vitamin B12 and folic acid (also folate, vitamin B9) are closely connected in the metabolism.
Vitamin B12 and folate are two vitamins that are part of the B complex of vitamins. They are necessary for normal red blood cell (RBC) formation, repair of tissues and cells, and synthesis of DNA, the genetic material in cells. Both are nutrients that cannot be produced in the body and must be supplied by the diet.
Folate refers to a naturally occurring form of the vitamin, whereas folic acid refers to the supplement added to foods and drinks. It is found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, dry beans and peas, liver, and yeast. Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is found in foods from animals, such as red meat, fish, poultry, milk, yogurt, and eggs. In recent years, fortified cereals, bread, and other grain products have also become important dietary sources of B12 and folate (identified as “folic acid” on nutritional labels).
A deficiency in either B12 or folate can lead to macrocytic anemia, where red blood cells are larger than normal. Megaloblastic anemia, a type of macrocytic anemia, is characterized by the production of fewer but larger RBCs called macrocytes, besides some cellular changes in the bone marrow. Other laboratory findings associated with megaloblastic anemia include decreased white blood cell (WBC) count and platelet count.
A folic acid test measures the amount of folic acid in the blood. If you aren’t consuming enough folic acid, you may develop a folic acid deficiency. While mild folic acid deficiency rarely triggers symptoms, severe folic acid deficiency can cause diarrhea, fatigue, and a sore tongue. The deficiency may also lead to a more serious condition known as anemia, which is caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells. Since folic acid levels can be measured in the bloodstream, a folic acid test can determine whether someone has a folic acid deficiency.
The normal reference range of folic acid in the blood is between 2.7 and 17.0 ng/mL. Higher-than-normal folic acid levels usually aren’t problematic, but they may show a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Your body needs vitamin B-12 to use folic acid properly, so if vitamin B-12 levels are low, folic acid can’t be used. Your doctor may refer to further testing to make sure, elevated folic acid levels aren’t being caused by vitamin B-12 deficiency.
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