Find Search

Other Information

Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue #59 : A-Z of Nutrition: Folic Acid

Folic acid is one of the many members of the B vitamin family and its chemical name is pteroyl glutamic acid. Folic acid was originally isolated from yeast, where it was found to possess anti-anaemic properties. As it is a member of the B vitamin family, it is water-soluble which means it is unstable to heat, air, water and alkali and therefore, boiling vegetables can deplete folic acid concentration.

What does it do?
Folic acid is primarily needed for the synthesis of DNA and therefore for cell division (it has been discovered that folic acid works along side vitamin B12 for this function). It is also involved in the production of the non-essential amino acids, methionine and glycine.

What are the deficiency signs?
The rapidly dividing cells of the body, including red blood cells and cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, are most at risk of folic acid deficiency which outlines its importance during cell division.

In pregnant women, deficiency signs will express themselves as birth defects, notably spina bifida, and it is also acknowledged that a folic acid deficiency can cause mental deterioration. Pregnant women also have increased red blood cell production, which means extra folic acid is vital for the mother as well as the baby.

Is it toxic?
Due to it being a water-soluble vitamin, toxicity data is scarce, as any excess will be excreted via the urine. Therefore the risk of experiencing any adverse effects from mega-doses of folic acid is very slight.

Who should supplement?
Certain groups of the population are more at risk of a folic acid deficiency than others and these groups may benefit from a folic acid supplement:

  • The elderly - who may not consume large meals and may have difficulty with digestion.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Alcoholics.

Intake levels: micrograms (µg)

RDA 200
Upper safe level 1000

Which foods?

Micrograms (µg/100g)

Brewer's yeast






Leafy greens







  • Vitamin and Mineral Safety, Council for Responsible Nutrition. 1997
  • Health Essentials, Vitamin Guide: 1994
  • Manual of Nutrition (MAFF): 1989.

Print this page