About Folic Acid
The term folic acid is generally used to describe the synthetic form of the vitamin folate, which occurs naturally in foods like leafy greens. Folic acid, which is actually absorbed more readily than its naturally occurring counterpart, is added to foods, like cereals and grains, to supplement their nutritional benefits. The vitamin is actually a B vitamin used by the body for a variety of functions related to creating healthy blood cells, among many other functions, and is well known for its role in maintaining healthy pregnancies. Pregnant mothers with low folic acid levels have a higher risk of having a child with birth defects.
Folic Acid Overdose
As previously mentioned, a folic acid overdose occurs not from consuming too much folate-rich foods, but usually by taking a toxic level of folic acid supplements. Elevated folate levels can actually be beneficial to homocysteine levels in certain populations, especially the elderly. However, the real danger is that the overdose works in a strange way to mask the very dangerous symptoms of the deficiency of another vitamin, vitamin B12.
Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Individuals with vitamin B12 deficiency can experience a whole host of medical issues, including anemia and even nerve damage. Too much folic acid can delay or prevent a proper diagnosis of a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to permanent and possibly irreversible damage to nerves.
Adults should consume no more than 1000 micrograms of the vitamin daily, though the recommended daily levels generally hover more around 400 micrograms. Reaching recommended levels is especially important for pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant. Likewise, breastfeeding mothers generally have an increased need for this vitamin. Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated for expecting mothers to ensure that she receives the correct amount of necessary vitamins, including folic acid, to aid in her health and that of her developing baby.
The daily dietary need for folic acid varies for children, based on age and stage of development. A doctor or nutritional consultant can offer advice on your child's vitamin needs.
In Case of Overdose
If your or a family member accidentally consumes too many folic acid supplements or suspects a toxic level of folic acid has been ingested, it's important to seek the advice of a medical professional immediately. Visit an emergency room, contact poison control, or seek aid in a prompt care facility.
The best way to prevent accidental folic acid overdose is to get this vitamin through natural occurring folate in foods or through fortified foods.
Here is a list of folate and folic acid sources:
- Beans (Kidney, Great Northern, etc)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Black-Eyed Peas
- Lima Beans
- Sunflower Seeds
Fortified foods include not only cereals and grains, but also some dairy products.
While folic acid is an important vitamin for your health and well being, too much of a good thing is exactly that: too much. Taking too many vitamins can be harmful and in some cases, even dangerous. If you are concerned about your nutrient levels, consult a physician.