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: Fortified breakfast cerealBeef liverLentilsSpinachEgg noodlesGreat Northern beansAsparagusMacaroniRiceAvocadoPapayaCornBroccoli
Tips For Increasing Your Folate Intake
To help increase your intake of folate:
Spread a little avocado on your sandwich in place of mayonnaise.Drink a glass of orange juice or tomato juice in the morning.Add spinach to your scrambled eggs.Slice a banana on top of your breakfast cereal.Sprinkle some toasted wheat germ on top of pasta or a stir-fry.Throw some chickpeas or kidney beans into a salad.If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains folate.
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11/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: 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
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: 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
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