Folic acid is an essential nutrient, and being deficient in it can cause serious health issues and birth defects, which leads us to the question-What is a normal level for folic acid? Surely, by knowing what levels are optimal for good heath, one will find it easier to obtain that goal.
Why Folic Acid is Important
Folic acid, one of the B vitamins, is used by the body to make red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Among the other important functions of folic acid is in the production of new DNA for cells and growth. Folic acid is also essential for normal fetal growth and development.
Deficiency in this vital nutrient can cause a wide range of symptoms throughout the body. Among the symptoms of severe folic acid deficiency are diarrhea, weakness, headaches, sore tongue, fatigue, and short term memory issues. Other symptoms can include excessive bleeding, feeling light-headed or dizzy, fainting, hematoma, or increased risk of infections. Numbness of the feet can be a sign of folic acid deficiency, as can pale skin color and loss of appetite.
Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women can be a very serious health risk to the developing baby. Birth defects such as cleft palate, cleft lip, or neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and Anencephaly, can occur when there is a deficiency of folic acid in the mother. While cleft lip and palate are correctable with surgery, and generally do not affect health, neural tube defects are a much more serious matter.
The neural tube is the portion of a developing fetus that will eventually form the spinal cord and brain. Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect, and is a condition in which the spinal area does not develop properly, leaving spinal nerves or the spinal cord to protrude through an opening in the spine. Anencephaly is the second most common neural tube defect, and is always fatal, as infants with this condition are born with the brain and spinal cord that is only partially formed.
These birth defects can be avoided by ensuring that a proper level of folic acid is maintained before pregnancy and during the first six weeks of fetal development. However, since many women are unaware what is a normal level for folic acid or of the fact that they are pregnant until that critical six week window of neural tube development has passed, it is wise for all women of child bearing age to ensure that they are ingesting a high amount of folic acid.
Determining What is a Normal Level for Folic Acid for You
The answer to the question of what is a normal level of folic acid differs according to who you are. The recommended daily intake guidelines are as follows:
- Age 0 to 6 months-65 micrograms per day
- From 7 months to one year-80 micrograms per day
- 1 to 3 years of age-150 micrograms per day
- 4 to 8 years old-200 micrograms per day
- 9 to 13 years of age-300 micrograms per day
- Teenagers and Adults
- 14 years of age and older-400 micrograms per day
- Breastfeeding women-500 micrograms per day
- Pregnant women-600 micrograms per day
Sources of Folic Acid
The best way to ingest any vitamin, mineral, or nutrient is by maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Foods that are rich in folic acid include liver, whole grains, beans, milk, citrus fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables. Many cereals and bread products are enriched with B vitamins, including folic acid, and yeast is a natural source of this nutrient. Supplements are recommended for all women of childbearing age as insurance against birth defects and can be beneficial to many others who may not eat an ideal diet on a consistent basis.