10:20 AM

Folic Acid Benefits Moms-to-Be—and Everyone Else

It’s well-known that taking folic acid helps promote healthy births, but this B vitamin does much more for your health.

Folic acid is an important type of B vitamin for both women and men. It helps form red blood cells and produce DNA, which carries genetic information. It works with vitamins B-12 and C to help the body break down, use and create new proteins.

“Everyone needs folic acid, not just women who are pregnant or planning a family, says family medicine physician Kristen Kingry, DO, with LVPG Family Medicine–1251 Cedar Crest. “Folate is the naturally occurring form of the vitamin, while folic acid is the synthetic form found in supplements and some foods.”

Folate is found naturally in many different foods, including vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), fruits, beans and other legumes, and nuts. Since 1998, the FDA has required food manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched bread, cereal, wheat and corn flour, and other grain products.

Besides preventing neural tube defects in babies, folic acid and folate have other potential effects on health:

  • Folic acid might reduce the risk of having a premature baby and help prevent other birth defects like congenital heart problems.
  • Folic acid supplements have been shown to help prevent stroke in some studies.
  • A low blood level of folate is linked to depression and a lower response to treatment with antidepressants.

How much folic acid should you take?

“You can get as much folate as you like from food,” Kingry says. “But be careful not to go over the upper limit recommended for folic acid found in supplements and fortified foods.”

Here are your daily upper limits for folic acid:


Folic acid upper limit per day

Birth to 6 months

Not established

Babies 7 to 12 months

Not established

Children 1 to 3 years

300 micrograms

Children 4 to 8 years

400 micrograms

Children 9 to 13 years

600 micrograms

Teens 14 to 18 years

800 micrograms


1,000 micrograms


A primary care provider can advise you about folic acid supplements or other preventive care questions. Make an appointment with your primary care provider through MyLVHN, or call 888-402-LVHN (5846) to schedule an appointment.