Folic acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body make healthy new cells. "Folic acid" and "folate" mean the same thing. Folic acid is a manmade form of folate. Folate is found naturally in some foods. Most women do not get all the folic acid they need through food alone. All people need folic acid. But folic acid is very important for women who are able to get pregnant. When a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can prevent major birth defects, including:
- Spina bifida , which occurs when an unborn baby’s spinal column does not close to protect the spinal cord. As a result, the nerves that control leg movements and other functions do not work.
- Anencephaly which is when most or all of the brain does not develop. Babies with this problem die before or shortly after birth.
You can't get too much folic acid from foods that naturally contain it. But unless your doctor tells you otherwise, do not consume more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day. Consuming too much folic acid can hide signs that a person is lacking vitamin B12, which can cause nerve damage. Lacking vitamin B12 is rare among women of childbearing age. Plus, most prenatal vitamins also contain B12 to help women get all that they need. People at risk of not having enough vitamin B12 are mainly people 50 years and older and people who eat no animal products. Older adults need 400 mcg of folic acid every day for good health. But older adults need to be sure they also are getting enough vitamin B12. Too much folic acid can hide signs that a person is lacking vitamin B12. People older than 50 are at increased risk of not having enough vitamin B12. If you are 50 or older, ask your doctor what vitamins and supplements you might need.
Story Adapt from: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/folic-acid.html