Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, plays an essential role in cell formation and DNA and RNA production. Many fortified cereals and grain products contain folic acid, a synthetic form of folate. Folic acid supplements provide additional sources of folic acid that are especially important for women of childbearing age. Excess folic acid has only a minimal risk of adverse effects.
Because folate is a water-soluble vitamin, excess intake usually leaves the body through urine, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Therefore, high intake of folate from food does not have adverse effects. Folic acid supplements also have a low risk of toxicity. However, in individuals taking anti-convulsant medications, high levels of folic acid may trigger seizures. Talk to your doctor before taking folic acid supplements if you take anti-convulsant medications.
Folic Acid and Vitamin B-12
High intake of supplemental folic acid can correct the megaloblastic anemia associated with vitamin B-12 deficiency, masking the symptoms and making the condition harder to diagnose. Folic acid does not prevent the nervous system and neurological damage that vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause, however. Untreated B-12 deficiency can cause permanent damage.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels
The Institute of Medicine has established a tolerable upper intake level, or UL, for folic acid from fortified foods and supplements. This level represents the highest daily intake of folic acid that will not likely cause adverse effects. Adult women should not consume more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid per day. The Institute of Medicine has not established upper intake levels for folate, which is the naturally occurring food form of the nutrient, because it poses no health risks.
Folic Acid in Foods
Foods containing folic acid include fortified breakfast cereals, enriched rice, enriched egg noodles and enriched breads. Check nutrition labels of fortified grain products to find out their folic acid content.
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