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Folic acid supplement benefits and dosages

What are the benefits of folic acid, and what is it used for?

ingredients 12 folic-acid-B9 illustration
Sophie Medlin
Sophie Medlin
Head of Nutritional Research
October 31, 2019
5 min read

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9 (and therefore part of the full B complex), is one of the essential nutrients that we all need. It contributes to the production of DNA and other genetic material, as well as playing a role in processes like cell division.

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of folic acid, for men and for women, along with which foods contain it, and what a folic acid deficiency can look like.

What is folic acid?

Folate is the generic form of vitamin B9, naturally found in lots of foods. However as we sometimes need more that we can get from our diet alone, we can use supplements that contain folic acid—the manmade compound that contains folate.

Our bodies can’t produce folate or folic acid, nor can it store the vitamin. Therefore, it’s vital that we get enough folic acid every day.

Folic acid dosage

The nutrient reference value (NRV) recommends 200mcg per day. The Heights Smart Supplement contains a 500mcg dose of folic acid—an amount equal to 2 cups of boiled spinach or a whole 3lb crab—so 250% of your daily needs.

Folic acid for pregnancy

Because it helps the body to make DNA and other genetic material, there are specific benefits of folic acid for women trying to become pregnant. The current UK guidelines are that you take a larger folic acid dosage—400mcg daily until you're 12 weeks pregnant. This can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in your baby.

How folic acid interacts with other nutrients

If you decide to take a folic acid supplement, it can be beneficial to take it with other B vitamins, as this will help efficient energy release. You can read more about each of these vitamins here:

Folic acid, iron and vitamin B12 can also work together to protect from all forms of anaemia.

Which foods contain folic acid?

A variety of foods contain folate, and while there are both animal and plant-based sources, the latter tend to contain higher levels. Some of the foods particularly rich in folic acid (or folate) include:

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Broccoli

  • Peas

  • Chickpeas and kidney beans

  • Liver (although this should not be considered a source of folic acid for pregnant women, who should avoid liver during pregnancy)

The benefits of folic acid

Even though we need less folic acid than some other B vitamins, it’s still an essential part of the diet, and can contribute to a healthy body and brain in many ways. These include:

  • Helping reduce tiredness and fatigue

  • Maintaining healthy red blood cells

  • Reducing risk of birth defects in unborn babies

  • Contributing to normal psychological functions

  • Lowering risk of depression

Folic acid can also help to lower homocysteine levels, high levels of which have been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What are the symptoms of a folic acid deficiency?

Folic acid deficiencies are rare, but they can happen, and lead to megaloblastic anaemia. This is a blood disorder that can cause:

  • Fatigue

  • Lack of focus

  • Irritability

  • Heart palpitations

A deficiency in folic acid can also cause certain skin ailments, like sores around the mouth and tongue.

Are there any side effects of folic acid?

Taking folic acid supplements in large amounts (more than 1mg a day) can hide the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency. This is particularly important among older people, who do not absorb B12 as efficiently.

However, some pregnant women will receive medical advice to take larger quantities of folic acid supplements—in these instances you should follow your doctor’s instructions.

How we use folic acid in the Smart Supplement

We've designed the Heights Smart Supplement with vitamin B9 from calcium L-methylfolate, which is the active form of the vitamin. You can be sure that:

  • Each dose contains 250% of the NRV for folic acid.

  • Our folic acid is pure and quality-tested.

  • Everything is manufactured in small batches.

  • It meets many common dietary and lifestyle practices: It's gluten-free, 100% plant-based, allergen-free and contains absolutely zero GMOs, contaminants, fillers or colourants.

Heights Smart Supplement bottle with blueberries, sugar snap and seeds
Heights Smart Supplement with blueberries and a snap pea
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Here’s a handful of relevant scientific studies on folic acid.

Bailey, L. B., Stover, P. J., McNulty, H., Fenech, M. F., Gregory III, J. F., Mills, J. L., ... & Molloy, A. M. (2015). Biomarkers of nutrition for development—folate review. The Journal of nutrition, 145(7), 1636S-1680S. Chinthapalli, K. (2014). Alzheimer’s disease: still a perplexing problem. Bmj, 349. Wilson, R. D., Audibert, F., Brock, J. A., Carroll, J., Cartier, L., Gagnon, A., ... & Pastuck, M. (2015). Pre-conception folic acid and multivitamin supplementation for the primary and secondary prevention of neural tube defects and other folic acid-sensitive congenital anomalies. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 37(6), 534-549.

We also used these sources when writing this article:

  • Smart Supplement
  • Braincare Journal
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This product is not designed to replace a varied and balanced diet. Do not exceed stated dose. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication, please consult your doctor before use. Do not use it if the seal has been tampered with. Store in a cool, dry place. Keep out of reach of children.
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