Folate Facts and Health Benefits
Folate, also called Vitamin B9, is found naturally in food and is essential to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. Folate also helps produce and maintain new cells. Folate is especially important during periods of rapid cell growth, such as during infancy and pregnancy, as folate is needed to make the building blocks of cells known as DNA and RNA. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is found in supplements and added to fortified foods.
Athletes Need More Folate. For optimum performance, athletes, especially endurance athletes, need more Folate to insure sufficient production of oxygen carrying red blood cells to sustain endurance training and encourage optimum training recovery. See also Kidney Health, Red Blood Cell Production, and Peak Performance for Athletes. Also, as folate helps produce and maintain new cells, it is important to recovery and muscle rebuilding.
Women of child bearing age, women athletes, pregnant and breast feeding mothers also have greater needs for Folate.
Natural Food Sources of Folate
Beef liver, salmon, leafy green vegetables (like spinach and turnip greens), citrus fruits and juices, and dried beans and peas are all good natural sources of folate.
* Items marked with an asterisk (*) are fortified with folic acid.
^ DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a specific nutrient.
Folate Recommended Daily Intake
Most people do NOT get enough Potassium. Here is a list of the daily recommended dietary intake of Potassium from the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine.
Recommended Dietary Allowances for Folate for Children and Adults
Folate Deficiency and Supplement Toxicity
Deficiency. A deficiency of Folate can occur when an increased need for folate is not matched by an increased intake, when dietary folate intake does not meet recommended needs, and when folate loss increases. Medical conditions that increase the need for folate or result in increased loss of folate include pregnancy, breastfeeding, alcoholism and anemias. As some medications interfere with Folate absorption, its good to ask your physician if your are taking any medications.
Anemia is a condition that occurs when there is insufficient hemoglobin in red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to cells and tissues. It can result from a wide variety of medical problems, including folate deficiency.
Some evidence associates low blood levels of Folate with a greater risk of cancer. Folate is involved in the synthesis, repair, and function of DNA, our genetic map, and there is some evidence that a deficiency of Folate can cause damage to DNA that may lead to cancer.
Supplement Toxicity. Contrary to the toxicity concerns of long term use of many other vitamin supplements, Folate intake from food is not associated with any health risk. The risk of toxicity from folic acid intake from supplements and/or fortified foods is also low as Folate is a water soluble vitamin and excess intake is usually lost in the urine. However, intake of supplemental folic acid should not exceed 1,000 micrograms (mcg) per day to prevent folic acid from triggering symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. See Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B12<-- back to top
Articles on Folate
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin Folate, National Institute of Health
Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011)
Natural Sources of Folic Acid, Amber Wilson, Livestrong