Folic acid

Definition-what is folic acid?

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the vitamins. More precisely, it is vitamin B9. It takes part in various processes in the body and is sometimes an important component for cell division, blood formation and the maturation of the child in the womb.

With a healthy and balanced diet, the body is usually adequately supplied with vitamin B9. In special situations such as pregnancy, a higher dose of folic acid may be necessary; this can then be compensated for by administering vitamin B9 tablets, for example.

Standard values

Folic acid concentrations of> 2.5 ng / ml are considered normal values ​​in the blood of an adult. A deficiency in folic acid is noticeable in anemia and is characterized by values ​​of <2.0 ng / ml. The anemia associated with a folic acid deficiency is characterized by a too low number of red blood cells and a change in the appearance of the blood cells Erythrocytes called, from.

Read more about folic acid deficiency at: Folic Acid Deficiency - What You Should Know!

Folic acid is absorbed through food. The daily requirement for folic acid in adults is around 300 micrograms. The need is increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If the concentration of folic acid in the blood is too low, folic acid tablets can usually be used to compensate for this.

Read more on the topic: Vitamins in Pregnancy

Function of folic acid in the human body

By eating green vegetables such as beans, avocado, asparagus and spinach, humans can absorb folic acid. This is then metabolized in the body and only then gets into its active form. Because of the modification, the folic acid or tetrahydrofolate is then able to take part in various processes in the body.

It is particularly important in the formation of red blood cells, the so-called Erythrocytes. Folic acid also plays an important role in the development of the child in the womb. More precisely, with the development of the so-called neural tube. It is a precursor structure of the brain and the spinal cord. This closes again after a few weeks of pregnancy.Folic acid has an important function here - if there is a deficiency in folic acid, there is more often a wrong closure or even failure of the closure. As a result, it can then lead to an open back called the Spina bifida or a malformation of the child's brain. A sufficient supply of folic acid to the body is therefore extremely important, especially in early pregnancy, as it can greatly reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

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These are the symptoms I can tell if I have overdosed on folic acid

With an increased intake of folic acid in the form of food, no negative effects are known to date. When folic acid is taken in the form of tablets, excessive intake can lead to gastrointestinal complaints and nausea. Long-term overdosing can also lead to depressive symptoms and seizures.

Furthermore, the increased amount of folic acid can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. Normally, a vitamin B12 deficiency would manifest itself through gastrointestinal complaints and neurological symptoms. If the amount of folic acid is too high, these symptoms can be suppressed despite the existing vitamin B12 deficiency.

Because of this, consumers of folic acid products should always adhere to the maximum amount or the recommended dose. If you are unsure about the intake and dosage, the doctor or pharmacist should be consulted.

These can be the side effects of folic acid in the body

Folic acid is a vitamin that is naturally absorbed through food and is an important component for cell function and cell formation. As a rule, there are no undesirable side effects when consuming foods containing folic acid such as spinach, avocado or eggs.

When taking folic acid tablets, an overdose can occur, which can then manifest itself in the form of symptoms such as nausea and gastrointestinal problems. Long-term overdosing of folic acid preparations can also lead to depressive moods or seizures.


A daily amount of 300 micrograms of folic acid is recommended for adults. As a rule, the folic acid requirement can be covered by a healthy and balanced diet. Foods that contain folic acid include green vegetables such as spinach, avocado, and beans. But folic acid is also found in legumes, dairy products and eggs.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women have a higher need for folic acid. This can be compensated by giving folic acid tablets. A dose of around 450 micrograms is recommended for breastfeeding women and around 550 micrograms for pregnant women.

Read more on the topic:

  • Diet in Pregnancy
  • Vegan diet during pregnancy

It is best to take folic acid tablets after consulting your doctor. Overdosing should be avoided - the limit for daily folic acid intake is around 1000 micrograms.

That is why pregnant women should consume folic acid

If the concentration of folic acid is too low, the expectant mother may develop anemia, a so-called anemia come. This can then express itself through symptoms such as tiredness, exhaustion, paleness or palpitations.

Read more on the topic: Folic Acid Deficiency - What You Should Know! or Always tired - what can I do?

Furthermore, a folic acid deficiency can also affect the child's development in the womb. An insufficient supply of folic acid increases the risk of a so-called neural tube defect. It is a structure from which the brain and the spinal cord develop. Usually the neural tube closes in the 4th week of pregnancy. A deficiency in folic acid can negatively affect the process - it can then lead to a defective seal or even a failure to seal. The result can then be a so-called open back (spina bifida) or a misalignment of the brain. Taking folic acid during pregnancy can reduce the child's risk of developing a neural tube defect.

In order to counteract a folic acid deficiency, many doctors recommend starting with an adequate intake of folic acid before the start of pregnancy. This is done through a healthy and balanced diet and is often supplemented by taking folic acid tablets. As a rule, a folic acid dose of around 550 micrograms per day is recommended for pregnant women. If you have any questions or are unclear about the dosage, pregnant women or those who wish to have children should contact the gynecologist in charge.

Read more on the topic: Folic Acid During Pregnancy
You might also be interested in: Folic Acid Deficiency - What You Should Know!

These foods contain folic acid

Folic acid is found in a wide variety of foods. These include green vegetables such as avocado, asparagus and beans. Folic acid is also found in potatoes and cabbage. Whole grain products, nuts and legumes are also important sources of folic acid. Folic acid is also found in dairy products and eggs. Folic acid is a vitamin that is sensitive to heat and light. When preparing food, careful preparation should therefore also be taken into account in order to preserve the vitamin. The same also applies to the correct storage of foods containing folic acid, protected from light.

Read more on the subject at: Foods with folic acid

What is folic acid anemia

It is an anemia caused by a lack of folic acid. The red blood cells occur in smaller numbers and compared to the normal blood cells are enlarged and more strongly colored or loaded with the red blood pigment hemoglobin. The physician speaks of one in this context megaloblastic hyperchromic anemia.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can also lead to such changes in blood cells. That is why a vitamin B12 deficiency is usually considered as a differential diagnosis.

Symptoms of folic acid anemia include: tiredness and poor concentration, headache and dizziness, paleness and palpitations. Furthermore, it can lead to shortness of breath and sensory disturbances.

Pure folic acid anemia usually occurs when the body's needs are increased - such as during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In order to counteract a deficiency, taking folic acid tablets can be recommended, as the daily requirement of folic acid cannot always be adequately covered even with a healthy diet. Especially women who want to have children or who are in the first days and weeks of pregnancy should discuss the intake of folic acid with their gynecologist in order to counteract a deficiency during pregnancy.

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What are folic acid antagonists?

Folic acid antagonists are synthetically produced substances whose chemical structure is very similar to the vitamin. The antagonists block the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase, which normally converts the ingested folic acid into tetrahydrofolic acid. Tetrahydrofolic acid is an important component in the production of the DNA base thymine - or, to put it simply, a building block of DNA. If this component is missing, cell growth is hindered. This phenomenon is mainly used in the therapy of tumor diseases.

Folic acid antagonists are therefore often used as chemotherapeutic agents, i.e. drugs that are used in cancer.

There are also other areas of application, such as the treatment of fungal infections, for the therapy of autoimmune diseases or for the treatment of an HIV infection. The areas of application for folic acid antagonists are therefore broad.

The large group of folic acid antagonists includes methotrexate, zidovudine, sulfonamides and cotrimoxazole. Methotrexate is a particularly well-known folic acid antagonist because it is used both in the treatment of immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease or lupus, and in the treatment of tumor diseases. In contrast to the treatment of autoimmune diseases, the folic acid antagonist is then administered in a much higher dose when used as a chemotherapeutic agent.

Read more on the topic: Side effect of methotrexate

What influence does folic acid have on hair?

Folic acid is an important element in cell structure and cell division. This also applies to the hair, which is dependent on a sufficient amount of folic acid due to its constant growth. Folic acid is therefore an important part of hair growth. There is a wide variety of folic acid supplements specifically designed for hair regeneration to buy. Often these are mixed with zinc and biotin, which are also important components of healthy and strong hair growth.

Read more on the topic: Brittle hair

Folic acid at MTX

The name methotrexate is hidden behind the abbreviation MTX. It is a substance that belongs to the folic acid antagonists and is used in the therapy of autoimmune diseases and cancer diseases. The methotrexate blocks an enzyme that would be responsible for converting folic acid to tetrahydrofolic acid. Tetrahydrofolic acid is an important component in the structure of the DNA building block thymine. If this element is missing, cell growth is ultimately inhibited.

In the treatment of tumor diseases, folic acid is often given after administration of methotrexate. This may seem surprising at first, since MTX is the antagonist of folic acid - but serves the simple purpose of reducing the side effects that methotrexate brings with it. The addition of folic acid in the therapy of autoimmune diseases has been viewed critically by some experts in the past. The discrepancies in the administration of folic acid in the treatment of autoimmune diseases consisted in the fact that the side effects of methotrexate can be reduced by folic acid, but its effect can also be impaired.

Read more on the topic: Side effect of methotrexate

This played a role, especially in the therapy of autoimmune diseases, since methotrexate is administered in much lower doses. Nowadays, a large number of doctors often recommend the administration of a folic acid preparation during therapy with methotrexate. Folic acid intake in the form of tablets should take place 24 hours at the earliest, and many experts now advise 48 hours after methotrexate administration. The time between methotrexate administration and folic acid intake is extremely important, as it gives the folic acid antagonist enough time to work undisturbed.