Folic acid (Vitamin B9, folate) is a water-soluble vitamin and part of the B Complex of vitamins.
Healthy adults require about 320 mcg of folic acid daily; pregnant women and teenagers need 330 mcg. Children require much smaller doses, ranging from 120 – 250 mcg per day, according to age.
In addition to pregnant women, other people who might benefit from a higher than average intake of folic acid include alcoholics, people with macrocytic anemia, those suffering from depression and/or insomnia, and people with gingivitis.
Although folic acid is generally well tolerated, there is some concern that extensive long-term supplementation could increase the risks of: 1) heart attack in people with heart disease, and 2) certain cancers. It’s best to limit your intake to no more than 400 mcg per day unless directed by your healthcare provider.
Folic acid, as a supplement, is best absorbed from an empty stomach. It has many drug interactions, including:
- chemotherapy agents such as methotrexate
- epilepsy medications such as phenytoin
- HRT medications (estrogen)
- diabetes medications (metformin)
There are no significant interactions known between folic acid and herbs or other supplements.
If you take any medication, discuss the advisability of folic acid supplementation with an MD, ND or pharmacist before proceeding.
Folic acid is found in abundance in food such as leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (such as bananas, melons, and lemons) beans, yeast, mushrooms, meat (such as beef liver and kidney), orange juice, and tomato juice. For many years now, folic acid has been also been added to wheat flour and baked goods as a public health measure to prevent miscarriages and neural tube defects (spina bifida).