Folate – The Vitamin B12 Partner

Folate is also known as folic acid and vitamin B9. The vitamin has three components, pteridine, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and a molecule of glutamic acid (glutamate). Vitamin B9 works closely with Vitamin B12, so a deficiency of one results in the same red blood cells abnormalities. The folic acid form of the vitamin is the most stable form and is the one used as a supplement and in the fortification of food products.

Folate Molecule

Folate Molecule

This is a crucial vitamin required in pregnancy due to its role in DNA synthesis and cell division, amino acid metabolism and the maturation of red blood cells and other cells, this vitamin is essential for the healthy development of the embryo, and providing supplementation in early pregnancy if necessary greatly reduces the risks of birth defects in the form of neural tube defects that result in spina bifida.

Dietary Recommendation

The vitamin is acquired in the diet through natural sources, fortified foods, and supplementation. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for men and women aged 19 and older is 400 micrograms/day of dietary folate equivalents or DFE, for pregnant and lactating women the RDA increases to 600 micrograms/day DFE, and for breast feeding women 500 micrograms/day DFE.

The recommendation for women in childbearing years is to take 400 micrograms/day of the vitamin from synthetic sources such as fortified foods or supplements and eat foods containing the vitamin as a preventative course to prevent neural tube defects that lead to spina bifida.

Vitamin Sources

Sources of the vitamin are fortified breakfast cereals, fortification of enriched flour and grains. Natural sources of the vitamin are dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, orange juice, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, legumes and liver.

Since the vitamin is extremely vulnerable to oxygen, ultraviolet light and heat, cooking and food processing techniques can destroy as much as 90% of the foods source of the vitamin; therefore it is recommended that vegetables rich in folate be either eaten raw or cooked by methods such as steaming, stir-frying or microwaving using a minimum amount of water and cooking the vegetables quickly to retain the vitamin in the food.

Food Sources Of Folate

Folat Containing Foods

Vitamin Deficiency

When a person is in good health the vitamin can be stored for between two to four months without having to take in more of the vitamin.

Deficiency of this vitamin is considered by far to be the most prevalent of all vitamin deficiencies. The deficiency has been associated with those that have poor nutrition such as the elderly or those that are alcoholics.

Others experience deficiency due to defects in intestinal absorption of the vitamin, certain anemias, and the use of medications that interfere with the absorption of the vitamin or its actions.

The deficiency seems to play a role in the development of anemia, atherosclerosis, neural tube defects, and adverse outcomes in pregnancy, and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Vitamin Toxicity

Although rare those that are hypersensitive to the vitamin may suffer hives or respiratory distress.

For more information about Folate click on the link to

For other information on nutrition, and vitamins in particular some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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