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Folate is one of several different forms of water-soluble vitamin B. According to the Mayo Clinic, folate is naturally found in the human body. It is utilized for proper neurological functioning.

Folate takes its name from the Latin word "folium", which means leaf. The name most likely came from the fact that green, leafy vegetables are one of the best natural sources of folate in the human diet.

Folic acid, a cousin of folate, is essentially the same thing except that it is synthetically produced. Folic acid is commonly prescribed as a supplement for pregnant women to ensure proper fetal development.

When folate or folic acid are independent of one another they are often referred to as vitamin Bc; when both are joined together they are given the designation vitamin B9. Both are commonly found in multivitamin formulas, sometimes separately and other times joined together. The benefits of joining both folate and folic acid into a B9 complex is unclear. However, some researchers believe that doing so helps the folic acid be more readily used by the human body than it would be if kept separate.

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The Effects of Folate Deficiency Folate and folic acid are included in multivitamin formulas because a deficiency could have some pretty serious effects. It must be noted that a person suffering from folate deficiency could be asymptomatic for several months due to the fact that the body i... more

The Effects of Folate Deficiency

Folate and folic acid are included in multivitamin formulas because a deficiency could have some pretty serious effects. It must be noted that a person suffering from folate deficiency could be asymptomatic for several months due to the fact that the body is capable of storing large amounts of it for later use.

In theory, a person could be completely deprived of all folate and folic acid and still have enough in store for several month's use. However, as the body's supply runs low definite symptoms begin to emerge.

The earliest symptoms of folate deficiency include common things like diarrhea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and anemia. Since these symptoms are often associated with so many other maladies, a folate deficiency is not immediately assumed when patients began exhibiting the symptoms.

As the folate deficiency continues over a period of time, more serious symptoms occur which make it easier for doctors to diagnose it properly. The symptoms include weakness in the limbs, nerve damage, confusion and forgetfulness, depression, loss of cognitive function, mouth ulcers, swollen tongue, headaches, and abnormal behavioral patterns.

The most serious complication arising from folate deficiency comes in the form of babies who are born with birth defects. Folate is essential in the proper development of the neural tube, somewhere around the second week of gestation. If the neural tube does not form properly certain birth defects like spina bifida are usually the result.

Folate Supplements

The National Institutes for Health MedLine Plus website lists several other possible benefits of taking folic acid or folate is a daily supplement. Perhaps the most important is the belief that taking as much as 400 mcg per day could reduce the chances of developing colon cancer. For supplement manufacturers, cancer risk reduction is a big selling point for many of their products.

Other possible benefits of folate and folic acid supplements include the prevention of macular degeneration, improved functioning of depression medications, improved function of psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis medications, and better health for babies who are being breastfed.

Unlike many other supplement ingredients that have no clinical basis for manufacturer’s claims, folate has been proven in numerous studies to be essential to the human body.  It has also been proven to be beneficial when taken as a supplement.

It is common for doctors to prescribe folate supplementation when any symptoms of deficiency occur. It's also common for supplement makers to include folate and folic acid in their multivitamin formulas. You can find folate as an ingredient in many supplements, as well as a standalone supplement.

The Side Effects of Folate Supplementation

Folate supplements are considered to be likely safe for most people if a daily dosage of 400 mcg is not exceeded. Slightly higher doses could result in some temporary side effects. These include:

  • diarrhea
  • excess gas
  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea and upset stomach
  • difficulty in sleeping
  • rashes
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • abnormal excitability

Because the body stores folate so easily it could take some time for these side effects to wane even if you stop taking your folate or folic acid supplement right away.

Doctors recommend that consumers not exceed the daily recommended dosage of 400 mcg. Doing so over a long period of time could have serious consequences.

For example, taking folate at twice the recommended daily dosage appears to increase the risk of heart attack in those who are already suffering from heart disease. Research also suggests the possibility that such high doses could promote prostate cancer and some forms of lung cancer.

Are you looking for a good folate supplement? To locate and compare products containing folate, use the supplement finder now!


  • Side Effects
  • Other Names
  • Uses
Abdominal Cramps
Difficulty Sleeping
Excessive Gas
Upset Stomach
Folium, Folic Acid, Vitamin Bc, Vitamin B9
Prenatal Care
Prevents Colon Cancer
Folate Deficiency
Improves Function Of Certain Medications
Prevents Macular Degeneration