Folate Factsheet

 

  • Summary

 

  • Folate or folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that is responsible for the health of blood cells and some neuropsychological functions. Folate is also known as Vitamin B9.
  • 20% of the folic acid is absorbed from dietary sources, and the remaining is produced by bacteria in the gut.
  • Deficiency is fairly common. 
  • Testing and supplementation are recommended if deficient. Testing for folate deficiency is recommended in conjunction with a Vitamin B12 test and a Full Blood Examination. There is a definite interrelation between Folate and Vitamin B12.
  • Risk factors for Folate deficiency include:
    • malnutrition or not eating a varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and fortified foods.
    • having alcohol use disorder or drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly.
    • being a woman of childbearing age.
    • being pregnant.
    • having a malabsorptive disorder – mainly, inflammation of the gut or history of stomach and duodenal ulcers.
    • stressful lifestyle.

 

Optimal Health

 

  • Testing Folate levels is essential particularly if you are in an at-risk group.
  • Should any deficiency be identified, an investigation should be launched to determine the causes.

 

Symptoms of Folate Deficiency

 

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue). The fatigue sets in slowly reaching debilitating levels with each day of deficiency.
  • Lack of energy (lethargy). It is sometimes confused with the lack of motivation seen in depression.
  • Breathlessness, especially on exertion. Breathlessness may be felt with even simple walking.
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, unsteady.
  • Persistent headaches, especially after the exercise.
  • Pale, unhealthy looking skin. The skin may look ‘watery’.
  • Noticeable periods of fast heartbeats (palpitations)

 

Risk Factors 

You may be at risk of Folate Deficiency if any of the following apply.

  • malnutrition or not eating a varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and fortified foods.
  • having alcohol use disorder or drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly.
  • being a woman of childbearing age.
  • being pregnant.
  • having a malabsorptive disorder – mainly, inflammation of the gut or history of stomach and duodenal ulcers.
  • stressful lifestyle.

 

Achieving Optimal Folate Levels

Gut health is the most important factor for maintaining healthy levels of folic acid. Folic acid is produced by healthy bacteria in the gut. Factors damaging the healthy bacteria in the gut are:

  • Alcohol intake. Alcohol in excessive quantities damages the gut bacteria. As a result, the folic acid is not being produced.
  • Poor nutrition – lack of fibre and fresh produce in the diet.
  • Frequent use of antibiotics.
  • Stress.
  • Exposure to some toxins.

Food generally provides around 20% of the required intake of Folate.

  • broccoli.
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • brussels sprouts.
  • leafy green vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, spring greens and spinach.
  • peas.
  • chickpeas and kidney beans.
  • liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)
  • breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.

 

Download this factsheet in PDF format here.