Folate: Sources, Deficiency and Toxicity

Folate has had many names over time, including the common folic acid, alongside folacin and vitamin B9. This B vitamin can be found naturally in foods we eat, mostly in green vegetables.

It is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells, for cell division and growth during pregnancy and infancy.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that is added to food or used as an ingredient in vitamin supplements.

The body absorbs folic acid faster than it absorbs folate. After consumption, the body then converts folic acid to folate. Not consuming enough folate could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.




Folate occurs in a wide variety of foods, some good sources include:

  • Broccoli.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Liver (but avoid this during pregnancy).
  • Cabbage.
  • Spinach.
  • Beetroot.
  • Lettuce.
  • Peas.
  • Chick peas.
  • Breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.





Folate deficiency can be caused by unhealthy diets that do not include enough vegetables and other folate-rich foods. Diseases like chrohns disease, some genetic disorders, chronic alcoholism and certain drugs, such as phenytoin, sulfasalazine, or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole can affect folate levels in the body.



Symptoms may include;

  • Glossitis.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Depression.
  • Confusion.
  • Anemia.
  • Fetal neural tube.
  • Brain defects.
  • Fatigue.
  • Gray hair.
  • Mouth sores.
  • Poor growth.
  • Swollen tongue.


Folate deficiency is treated with supplementation with folic acid.




A well balanced diet gives you the adequate amount of folate your body needs to carry out it’s daily duties.

Pregnant women are most likely to be given folate supplements during and after delivery, this is because it reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the babies.





There are no known toxic effects of high folate intake, either in food or as drug(folic acid). If you take folic acid by mouth you might experience mild Nausea, Poor appetite, Confusion, Irritability, Sleep disturbance or a Bad taste in your mouth.

Most people develop allergies to folic acid, discontinue taking the supplements and see your doctor if you experience Itching or skin rashes, or breathing difficulties.







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