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How Folate Works

Folate Supplements

Over-the-counter vitamin supplements usually contain 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid because they follow standards based on the previous RDAs. The most recent edition of the RDA halved the amount of folate.

Why? Since deficiency was not common in the United States, the experts set the RDA within the range typical diets were providing -- 180 mcg or 200 mcg. With the new evidence of folate's importance to fetal development, and with even newer evidence of folate's protective role in heart disease, this may have been shortsighted. The next edition of the RDAs may well return folate requirements to their previous levels.

There is some disagreement on the proper amount of folate to take, but 400 mcg is a healthy number.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
There is some disagreement
on the proper amount of folate
to take, but 400 mcg is a healthy number.

In addition, there was concern that a high intake of folate would mask, or cover up, a vitamin B12 deficiency, the underlying case of pernicious anemia. Large doses of folate make the blood appear normal, which, in turn, may delay diagnosis and treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency, eventually leading to permanent nerve damage. For this reason, supplements, other than pre-natal vitamins, do not contain more than 400 mcg of folic acid.

Under normal circumstances, large amounts of folate are not toxic. They can, however, interfere with the action of antiseizure and anticancer medications. Patients with epilepsy need to avoid high doses of this vitamin because it might cause seizures.

Cancer patients taking methotrexate also should avoid folate supplements because this cancer drug blocks folate in an attempt to starve cancer cells. Such treatment ends up starving all of the body's cells of folate, which is why symptoms such as hair loss, weakness, intestinal disturbances, and irritability accompany methotrexate treatments.

However, if you are taking methotrexate for arthritis, folate supplementation will help prevent some of these same side effects. Talk to your physician about taking the dose of folate that is best for you.

For general health purposes, 400 mcg per day of folate is plenty. Vitamin B12 should always accompany folate supplements. You should try to get your folate from foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables, but cook them lightly; cooking easily destroys this fragile vitamin.
To find the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.

The benefits of folate are huge and the risks of not getting enough are dire. At the same time, too much can also be a danger. After reading this article, we think you'll never look at a plate of spinach the same way again.

Folate is just one of the many vitamins that are part of a healthy diet. Check out the following links to learn more:


Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the
Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.