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Folic Acid Deficiency
(Folate Deficiency; Folacin Deficiency)
by Diane Norwood, MS, RD, CDE
Folic acid deficiency means that there is a lower than normal amount of folic acid in your blood. Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin, which means it cannot be stored well in the body. You must get a continual supply of it.
This B vitamin plays a role in:
There are several causes of folic acid deficiency, including the following:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your risk of developing folic acid deficiency include:
Folic acid deficiency may cause:
Complications from folic acid deficiency include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A blood test can help confirm a diagnosis of low folate levels and megaloblastic anemia.
It is difficult to distinguish between folic acid deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency. However, folic acid deficiency is confirmed only by measuring red blood cell (RBC) folate levels.
It is especially important to confirm a diagnosis of folic acid deficiency before treatment with supplemental folic acid begins. Mistreating an actual vitamin B12 deficiency with supplemental folic acid will mask the vitamin B12 deficiency, meaning the anemia will be corrected, but the neurological damage associated with vitamin B12 deficiency will progress.
Folic acid deficiency is usually treated with 1,000 micrograms of supplemental folic acid, given once a day until folic acid levels are replenished. The anemia usually is corrected within 2 months.
It is possible to consume enough folic acid by eating a balanced, varied diet including rich sources of folate, the food form of folic acid. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for folic acid is 400 micrograms per day for most adults.
To get enough folate, consume plenty of the following foods:
March of Dimes
Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health
Bariatric surgery. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T483434/Bariatric-surgery. Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Dietary supplement fact sheet: folate. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at:
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Updated April 20, 2016. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Folate deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114304/Folate-deficiency. Updated December 21, 2016. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 12/20/2014