Folate deficiency is a low level of folate (vitamin B9) in the body. This vitamin is found in many foods. A form of folate, called folic acid, is also added to foods and in supplements. The body uses this vitamin to build proteins, make DNA, and help form red blood cells.
Scanning Electron Micrograph of Red Blood Cells
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This problem may be caused by:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems may be:
Folate deficiency can lead to problems such as:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may also be asked about your diet.
Blood tests will be done to check vitamin B levels. Red blood cell folate levels will also need to be tested.
Any underlying causes may be treated.
The goal of treatment is to increase folate levels. This can be done with a folic acid supplement.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by eating foods that contain folate, such as grains, spinach, and lentils. Supplements may need to be taken by people who are at risk for deficiency, such as pregnant women.
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 December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 2/5/2021