The vitamins information pages - Folate
Folate is a B-complex, water-soluble vitamin that is also referred to as folic acid. Folate is the term used for the form found in foods and the human body. Folic acid is used for fortified forms of the vitamin.
Functions of Folate
Folate plays an important role in the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Consequentially, it is essential for cell growth and development and nervous system functioning. It is vital to foetal nervous system development and helps regulating histamine. Folate deficiency is characterized by anaemia, leading to a decreased oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This causes symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness. Folate deficiency may also cause a sore tongue, depression, nerve damage and infant neural tube defects, heart defects and limb malformations. Some of these symptoms may have an unclear cause because these are also caused by an iron or vitamin B12 deficiency.
Folate in food
Folate is present in spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, yeast, (fortified) cereals, citrus fruit juices, legumes, liver, kidney and oranges.
Folate as a supplement
Folate is essential to women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Children with dairy allergies need extra folate medication because of a folate deficit in goat milk and soy milk. People suffering from depression, mental illnesses or Alzheimer's may also benefit from folate, as well as alcoholics. Folate-rich diets have been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Some tasks of folate in cell development and nervous system functioning are performed interchangeably with vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. When anaemia is caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, providing a person with additional folate will not solve the problem and may even cause neurological damage in the long run.
Large doses of folate may mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficits.
Descriptions of vitamins on this website are based on information provided by BBC Health and The Linus Pauling Institute.