Conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding
Folic acid is a B group vitamin that can also be called 'folate' or 'folacin'. The chemical name for folic acid is 'pteroylglutamic acid' (or 'PGA'). Folic acid is an essential vitamin for the growth of healthy, new body cells (especially in the lining if the intestines) and plays a vital role (along with iron and vitamin B12) to form the 'oxygen-carrying' red blood cells (called 'haemoglobin'). Folate is also thought to play a role in preventing cancer.
Drinking alcohol and smoking can inhibit the use of folate in the body. Some medications can also interfere with folate in the body including antacids, aspirin and the oral contraceptive pill.
Although rare, a lack of folic acid can lead to anaemia and an inflamed mouth and bowel, mental confusion, weakness, fatigue, headaches and irritability.
Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)for folic acid is 0.2 to 0.4mg (milligrams) also written as 200 to 400ug (micrograms), with a maximum of 1000 mg per day (from foods and supplements, prescribed and monitored under medical supervision).
Most people can tolerate abnormally high daily doses of folic acid, but occasionally it can be dangerous to have too much folic acid because it can mask vitamin B12 deficiencies. If a person is vitamin B12 deficient and takes high doses of folic acid, it is possible (but rare) to develop irreversible nerve damage. Vitamin B12 deficiency is in itself a rare condition because it is usually associated with the bowel's inability to absorb vitamin B12 efficiently from foods. However, people who do not eat animal products (such as vegetarians or vegans) can sometimes be vitamin B12 deficient. Other people at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency are the elderly and people with a condition called 'pernicious anaemia'.
Conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.