acid is the most stable form.  It occurs rarely in foods, but it is the form most often
used in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.


Function of Folic Acid:
The B vitamins work together to convert carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is
then "burned" to produce energy. B vitamins are often referred to as B-complex
vitamins and are essential in the metabolism of fats and protein.  They are necessary
for maintaining muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract and promoting the health of
the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver.  

Folate is also required for the production and maintenance of new cells. It is especially
important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as in pregnancy and
infancy.  Folate is needed to replicate DNA.  Women who have folate deficiency
shortly before and during the time of pregnancy are more likely to give birth to low
birth weight and premature infants.  They are also more likely to give birth to infants
who have neural tube defects.   Folate also helps to prevent changes to DNA that
may lead to cancer.  It is needed, by adults and children, to make normal red blood
cells and prevent anemia.  


Deficiency of Folic Acid:
There are several circumstances that may cause folate deficiency.  Low dietary intake
and diminished absorption, such as in alcoholism, can decrease the system's supply
of folate.   Certain conditions such as pregnancy or cancer result in increased rates of
cell division and metabolism, which results in an increase in the body's demand for
folate. There are several medications which may also contribute to folate deficiency.  
Some research also suggests that exposure to ultraviolet light, including the use of
tanning beds, can lead to folate deficiency.

Symptoms of folate deficiency in the early stages may not be obvious.  Symptoms of
folic acid or folate deficiency include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness,
sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations, irritability, and behavioral disorders.  
Folate deficiency results in anemia, and can slow growth rates for infants and
children.  

Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above.  Therefore, it is
important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.


Toxicity (Folic Acid Overdose):
Taking very high doses of folic acid can cause stomach problems, sleep problems,
skin reactions, and seizures.
 Taking any one of the B complex vitamins for a long
period of time can cause an imbalance of the other important B vitamins.  To avoid
the imbalance, it is recommended that you take a B complex vitamin instead of
isolating any single B vitamin.

Caution: Eating natural foods that are high in folic acid is the safest and healthiest
way to get an adequate supply of the nutrient.  Due to risk of toxicity, individuals
should always consult with a knowledgeable health care provider before starting
doses of supplements.  Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that
you first consult with their pediatrician.  Also, some supplements may interfere with
medications.  If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with
your physician before taking any supplements.  All supplements should be kept in
childproof bottles and out of children's reach.


Folic Acid Food Chart (List of Foods High in Folic Acid):

Fortified breakfast cereal 1 cup - (200-400 mcg)
Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup - (179 mcg)
Garbanzo beans, cooked, 1/2 cup - (141 mcg)
Asparagus, cooked, 1/2 cup ~6 spears - (134 mcg)
Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup - (132 mcg)
Orange juice, from concentrate, 6 ounces - (83 mcg)
Lima beans, cooked, 1/2 cup - (78 mcg)
Pasta, cooked, 1 cup - (60 mcg)
Rice, cooked, 1 cup - (60 mcg)
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice - (20 mcg)


Sources:

American Dietetic Association: Complete Food And Nutrition Guide (2nd Edition)
Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS

Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs and More
Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, MPH

University of Maryland Medical Center - umm.edu

Linus Pauling Institute - oregonstate.edu

Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia
Eating foods that are high in folic
acid can help to prevent
conditions such as neural tube
defects and other birth defects,
pregnancy complicatons such as
preeclampsia,  cardiovascular
disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's
disease.  Foods that are high in
folic acid include: green leafy
vegetables, citrus fruits, and
legumes.     


What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid and folate are forms of
a water-soluble B vitamin.  Folic
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