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    Getting Enough Folic Acid

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    Topic Overview

    What is folic acid?

    Folic acid is one of the B vitamins your body needs for good health. Getting enough of this vitamin prevents folic acid deficiency anemia. It also prevents certain birth defects.

    The vitamin is also called folate, but there is a difference:

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    • Folate is the natural form of this vitamin. It's found in food.
    • Folic acid is the man-made form. It's put into vitamin pills and fortified foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals.

    Most people just say "folic acid" for either form of this vitamin.

    What is the recommended daily amount of folic acid?

    Most people can get the amount of folic acid they need by eating a well balanced diet.

    Daily recommended folic acid: 1
    Category Age Daily amount of folic acid

    Babies

    0-6 months

    65 mcg (micrograms)

    7-12 months

    80 mcg

    Children

    1-3 years

    150 mcg

    4-8 years

    200 mcg

    9-13 years

    300 mcg

    Older children and adults

    Over 13 years

    400 mcg

    Do some women need more folic acid?

    Although the recommended amount of folic acid for all adults is 400 mcg a day, many doctors recommend higher amounts for women who are able to get pregnant. This is because folic acid plays a big role in preventing birth defects.

    Women who don't get enough folic acid before and duringpregnancy are more likely to have a child born with a birth defect, such as:

    Folic Acid Supplement Recommendations for Women
    Category Daily amount of folic acid (folate)

    Pregnant women2

    600 mcg

    Breast-feeding women2

    500 mcg

    Women who are able to get pregnant3

    400 mcg to 800 mcg

    If you're breast-feeding, getting this extra folic acid will make sure that your baby gets the folic acid he or she needs to stay healthy.

    Here's an odd fact: The man-made form of this vitamin is actually absorbed better by our bodies than the natural form is. So even if a woman eats a well balanced diet, she may not get the extra folic acid she needs to prevent birth defects unless she also takes a supplement.

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    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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