What are the Effects of Folic Acid?

Malcolm Tatum

Also known as folate or vitamin B9, folic acid is an essential nutrient that provides a number of benefits to the body and mind. Some of the effects of folic acid are direct, as it is the presence of the nutrient itself that triggers the effects. At other times, vitamin B9 works in conjunction with other nutrients to strengthen different organs in the body, including the nervous system.

Most pregnant women are encouraged to take folate supplements.
Most pregnant women are encouraged to take folate supplements.

One of the most common effects of folic acid is on the nervous system. A folic acid deficiency can pave the way for a number of emotional and mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. The lack of a sufficient amount of vitamin B9 can also cause fatigue, even while interfering with the ability to enjoy recuperative sleep. This is because folic acid aids the body in absorbing calcium and iron with greater efficiency, which in turn helps the body to relax and enter into a state of deep sleep.

Kale contains plenty of folic acid.
Kale contains plenty of folic acid.

Another of the more important effects of folic acid is the ability to help the body absorb other essential B vitamins. This is important, since many vitamins in this particular group affect mood, the ability to handle stress, and the ability to keep nerve sheaths healthy and productive. The B vitamins are also important to maintaining physical vitality. A lack of folic acid in the diet can mean that thiamin, niacin and other B vitamins are not absorbed properly, resulting in the individual experiencing more irritability and feeling tired more often.

Wheat germ is high in folate.
Wheat germ is high in folate.

Most people never experience any type of negative reaction to the vitamin. This is in part because the body does not store folate, outside of a small amount that is found in the liver. There are reports of people experiencing mild to moderate nausea, swelling of the lips, and shortness of breath after taking a high dosage of some sort of folic acid supplement. Generally, dosages under 5,000 micrograms are considered safe and highly unlikely to cause even mild discomfort in any form.

Legumes contain folic acid.
Legumes contain folic acid.

Fortunately, it is possible to obtain the beneficial effects of folic acid by consuming a balanced diet. A number of foods contain the nutrient, including green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, mustard greens, and turnip green. Liver is also a good source of folate, along with soybeans, eggs, and wheat germ. Since folic acid is water soluble with only trace amounts stored in the body’s liver, it is important to consume foods containing the nutrient daily. Using a good quality B-complex vitamin is often preferable to using other types of folic acid supplements, although a multivitamin supplement that contains at least the minimum daily requirement of all the B vitamins will also suffice.

A banana bag containing folic acid.
A banana bag containing folic acid.
Leafy green vegetables are a good source of folic acid.
Leafy green vegetables are a good source of folic acid.

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