Table of contents:
Folic acid (folate)
Folate is one of the B group vitamins and is soluble in water. Folate is an umbrella term for many different compounds that show vitamin effects and are naturally found in foods. The term folic acid describes the synthetic form of this B vitamin, which is used, for example, in vitamin preparations or fortified foods. Folates are involved in various important processes such as the division, formation and regeneration of cells and blood formation. It is also important in the metabolism of certain amino acids: together with vitamins B12, B6 and B2, it is involved in the breakdown of homocysteine. An undersupply of folate during pregnancy can lead to miscarriages and premature births, malformations, growth retardation and low birth weight of the baby.
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- more on the subject
- Where is folate found?
- How Much Folate Do We Need?
- Too much / too little folate
Where is folate found?
Good sources of folate include various types of vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, as well as cabbage, fennel, cucumber and tomatoes. In addition, legumes, potatoes, nuts, oranges, whole grains, wheat germ and soybeans contain a lot of folates. Certain animal products such as milk and dairy products, eggs and liver also contain folates. In Austria, numerous foods are fortified with synthetic folic acid.
Folates are very sensitive to heat and light, and they are also water-soluble, which makes the losses through cooking and washing great. It is therefore advisable to wash vegetables only briefly and ideally uncut. Preparation methods such as steaming and briefly keeping food warm minimize folate losses.
How Much Folate Do We Need?
The recommended intake for adults (25 to <51 years) per day according to the DA-CH reference values is 300 µg folate equivalents (dietary folate). A sufficient intake of folic acid is particularly important for women who want to become pregnant: In order to prevent the development of a neural tube defect (including open back, severe malformations) in the child, in addition to a diet rich in folate, 400 µg folate should be taken daily in the form of a folic acid preparation will. This supplement should be started at least four weeks before pregnancy and continued until the end of the first trimester.
Note There are various folate-effective compounds in food. The recommended intake is therefore given in folate equivalents. 1 µg folate equivalent corresponds to 1 µg dietary folate and 0.6 µg synthetic folic acid (applies when folic acid is consumed with food).
You can find out more about all age groups or groups of people as well as gender in the DA-CH reference values. For more information, see Covering Your Daily Vitamins.
Too much / too little folate
- A diet-related increased intake has no side effects. Take care when taking food supplements: a value of 1,000 µg folic acid per day should not be exceeded.
- A deficiency is particularly noticeable in the red blood cells with above-average size (megaloblastic anemia). It can also lead to the growth and reproduction disorders of other cells and tissues, such as the white blood cells and cells in the intestine. The need is increased during pregnancy. A deficiency in the first weeks of pregnancy can damage the child's central nervous system (neural tube defect). Folic acid deficiency can lead to increased homocysteine levels - increased levels of this amino acid in the blood are linked to the occurrence of venous thrombosis and cardiovascular diseases. A folate deficiency is favored by an unbalanced diet, the use of various medications and high alcohol consumption.
For more information, see Folic Acid (laboratory values)
Note The use of food supplements should always be discussed with a doctor. When supplementing with folate, a possible vitamin B12 deficiency should be ruled out before starting the intake.