Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pros and Cons of Folic Acid

If you have ever taken a daily multi-vitamin specifically for women, you have probably taken folic acid. There are debates on when and if you should take folic acid. So, I am here to explain to you the pros and cons of taking folic acid and when it is recommended. 

Folic Acid is a B vitamin. It aids in cell production and division including the production of red blood cells. Folic acid is also crucial in the development of DNA. It can be found in foods, fortified cereals and other grain products, as well as vitamin supplements. 

Pros of Folic Acid:
  •  Helps the fetus neural tube to develop. The neural tube develops the brain and the spinal cord (two very important items!).
  • Reduces the incidence of neural tube defects by 70%.
  •  Prevents birth defects such as; spina bifida, anencephaly, cleft lip and palate, pregnancy complications, premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage, and poor growth in the womb. Check out this CDC YouTube video promoting folic acid.
  • Lower risks of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
  •  Linked to help those with depression because people with depression are often folic acid deficient. 
Cons of Folic Acid:
  • Has been linked to perhaps increased growth of cancer cells in people who already have cancer. Check out this link to learn more about this theory CBS NEWS.
  • Like anything else if you take too much of it you can have problems. However, as long as you do not take too much of the vitamins, you cannot overdose on the folic acid in your food even if you are getting the recommended amount in a vitamin. If you do take too much you could get stomach problems, sleep problems, skin reactions, and seizures.
When Should you Start Taking Folic Acid?

50% of pregnancies are not planned, so anyone that is of childbearing age should begin taking folic acid. Most birth defects occur within the first couple weeks of pregnancy, so it is important to have the folic acid in their system before the pregnancy. Before women are pregnant they should take at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day. If a person is already pregnant or breastfeeding this amount is increased daily. Folic acid is not just for women everyone needs folic acid! Even if you are not planning on getting pregnant now or ever it is also helpful in making new cells in the skin, hair and nails. 

Where Can you Get Folic Acid?

 "Since 1998 the FDA has required food manufactures to fortify some cereals, breads, pastas, rice and other grain products with folic acid to prevent birth defects. Other foods that contain high amounts of folic acid are":
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Dried beans
  • Oranges
  •  Peanuts
  •  Peas
If you do not think you are getting the recommended amount from your food you can also get it from vitamin supplements. 

Overall, I believe that the pros of folic acid far outweigh the cons. The only con that I see is that it could lead to progress in cancer after you already have the cancer cells. However, if you take it before you get cancer it promotes healthy cell growth and thus prevents cancer. No one wants to have a baby with a birth defect. So, if you could do this one simple thing every day to prevent these horrible birth defects wouldn’t you?

Here are some helpful links!


  1. Nice summary and great links. I like your advice to take sufficient folic acid even if you are not planning to get pregnant. By the time a pregnancy is noticeable much of the nervous system and other organ systems are already heavily developed.

  2. Great information! I liked how you listed foods that contain high amounts of folic acid. Did you happen to find any information on the number of birth defects specifically caused by the lack of folic acid?

  3. Hey Anne! The birth defects are not caused by the lack of folic acid. Folic acid just helps prevent the occurrence of the birth defects by aiding in cell production.

  4. I have never even heard of folic acid so this post was very helpful to me. I like how you listed the foods that contain folic acid along with the pros and cons of taking it. I think it is definitely worth taking folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects if you ever plan on having children.

  5. I did not know about folic acid before this post- the pros and cons were very informative. I agree that the pros far outweigh the cons. Most of the foods listed there are among my favorite foods, but I will definitely look in to taking supplements for folic acid!

  6. I would agree with you that the pros out weigh the cons but can to much have cause a problem with the baby when a women is pregnant?