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Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 and folate) is a type of B vitamin, which helps your body make healthy new cells.

What are its health benefits?

As one of the building blocks of DNA, folic acid has many benefits, including:

  • Red blood cell formation
  • Energy production
  • The forming of amino acids (building blocks of protein)
  • It is essential for creating heme, the iron-containing substance in haemoglobin, crucial for oxygen transport.
  • There is also a strong link between folic acid and pregnancy, with the vitamin playing a crucial role in the development of infants’ central nervous systems. Folic acid is also used to produce the extra blood your body needs during pregnancy.

It is important to note the difference between folate and folic acid. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in plants and animals (foods), while folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin, found in supplements and fortified foods.

Do you have a deficiency?

Because the body can store only small amounts of the vitamin, a deficiency can occur in just a few months if you don’t eat foods with adequate quantities, or supplement if needed.

Deficiency symptoms include:

  • A red, sore tongue that’s less able to taste
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Anaemia
  • Dark patches of skin (especially on the palms and feet)
  • Bone fractures (especially in the elderly)
  • Low libido (more common in men)

Find it in these foods

Stock up on folate with the following foods:

  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Organ meats
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Avocado

Note that folate is easily destroyed through cooking.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

Consult with your Clicks pharmacist first regarding the right dosage of daily oral supplements to make up for a folic acid deficiency.

The general guidelines for the recommended daily dosage, according to your age group, is:

  • Infants to 6 months: 65mcg
  • Infants from 6 to 12 months: 85mcg
  • Children 1 to 3 years old: 150mcg
  • Children 4 to 8 years old: 200mcg
  • Children between and 9 to 13: 300mcg
  • Adolescents through to adults: 400mcg
  • Pregnant women: 600mcg
  • Breastfeeding women: 500mcg

Know the overdose risks

Side effects can include:

Long-term excesses can reportedly increase the risk of cancer.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for folic acid

Clicks' pharmacists have selected the best folic acid supplements for you. If you'd like to stock up on your monthly intake through the convenience of online shopping, go here for folic acid.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015