Folate, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin that is essential for good health. Folic acid plays an extremely important role in preventing birth defects. Low blood levels of folate during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects—anencephaly and spina bifida. Because these defects occur in the first month of pregnancy, before a woman knows she is pregnant, it is important for any woman of childbearing age to get 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily. Taking folate during pregancy may offer additional benefits, like reducing a child's risk of having severe language delays. Pairing folate with iron may reduce the number of infants born with low birth weight and reduce infant mortality.
Folate deficiency can also result in megaloblastic anemia. This is due to the role that folic acid plays in the DNA synthesis and red blood cell division. Without folic acid new red blood cells can’t divide and thus stay large and immature.
|Age group (in years)||Recommended Dietary Allowance|
|1 - 3||150 mcg||150 mcg|
|4 - 8||200 mcg||200 mcg|
|9 - 13||300 mcg||300 mcg|
|14 - 18||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|Pregnancy, ages 14-18||600 mcg||n/a|
|Lactation, ages 14-18||500 mcg||n/a|
|19+||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|Pregnancy, ages 19+||600 mcg||n/a|
|Lactation, ages 19+||500 mcg||n/a|
Major Food Sources
Foods with the high amounts of folate include:
Tips For Increasing Your Folate Intake
To help increase your intake of folate:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Food and Nutrition
United States Department of Agriculture
Dietitians of Canada
Food and Nutrition
Folate. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Folate deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 15, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Folic acid. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/index.html. Updated March 10, 2011. Accessed on August 26, 2012.
Folic acid information. WIC Learning Center website. Available at: http://www.nal.usd.... Accessed on August 28, 2012.
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11/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Christian P, Stewart CP, LeClerq SC, et al. Antenatal and postnatal iron supplementation and childhood mortality in rural Nepal: a prospective follow-up in a randomized, controlled community trial. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170:1127-1136.
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10/21/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Roth C, Magnus P, Schjølberg S, et al. Folic acid supplements in pregnancy and severe language delay in children. JAMA. 2011;306(14):1566-1573.
Last reviewed August 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 8/26/2012