Folic acid or folate is a vitamin responsible for blood cells and some neuropsychiatric functions. 20% of the folic acid is absorbed from dietary sources, and the remaining is produced by bacteria in the gut. Folate is a vitamin that requires constant intake because storage of it in the body is not possible. Folate deficiency may occur due to some gut problems, kidney and liver problems and excessive intake of alcohol. Low serum folate levels may be seen in the absence of a deficiency, and normal levels may be seen in patients with macrocytic anemia, dementia, neuropsychiatric disorders, and pregnancy disorders.

There is some evidence that folic acid is helpful in depression, prevention of heart disease and some cancers. There is not enough evidence that folic acid is an effective single treatment for dementia.

Low levels of Folate may cause pale skin; grey hair; tiredness; shakiness of the hands; pins and needles; weakness; shortness of breath; irritability;

High levels of Folate may cause an unpleasant taste in the mouth; loss of appetite, confusion; irritability. High doses of folic acid are not particularly dangerous as the excess of folic acid is usually excreted in the urine. The excessively high levels of folic acid may mask vitamin B12 deficiency.

Folate is part of the B vitamin testing panel.

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