Folate and the Human Body


Vitamin B9 is commonly referred to as Folate or Folic Acid. Folate is the form naturally available in foods and Folic Acid is the synthetic version that is found in supplements and fortified or enriched foods. However, the natural version and the synthetic version have the same effect on the body. Vitamin B9 is water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water easily, and is a crucial part vitamin that the human body must get from foods or supplements.

What Does Folate Do

Folate is critical in the formation of red blood cells. It also plays a role in cell growth and function. Essentially, it is one of the key elements to keeping the body moving at its most basic level.

There has been much speculation on using Folic Acid to prevent or treat cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and cognitive decline. Many of the studies have found either no effect or the study could not determine the relationship. However, some of the studies against cancer found that large amounts of Folic Acid may increase the risk of certain cancers. Other studies have found that moderate levels of Folic Acid did not increase or decrease the risk of many cancers.

While studies have not found that Folic Acid impacts cardiovascular disease or cognitive decline, there has been some indication that it may help prevent strokes with some patients. Folic Acid has also been shown to help with depression in conjunction with other therapies.

How to Get Folate

Folate is found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, oranges, lemons, bananas, strawberries, melons, meat, and dairy products naturally. The foods that hold some of the highest levels of folate are spinach, liver, asparagus, and brussels sprouts.

Many foods are fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals, including Folic Acid. White breads, grains, flours, pastas, rice, and cereals have been required to enrich the products with a blend that includes Folic Acid since 1998. This increased the average daily intake to 190 mcg per day for most people. Folic Acid is also available as a supplement, as a part of multivitamins, and as a part of prenatal vitamins. For most Americans, it is easiest to get Vitamin B9 from foods.

Folate and the Population

Most Americans consume enough Folate in their diet. Few populations in the United States are at risk for Folate deficiency. The ones most at risk are people that suffer from malabsorption disorders, celiac disease, alcoholism, poor diets, and drug abuse. The main symptom of Folate deficiency is megaloblastic anemia. Expectant mothers need to take special care to consume enough Folate or Folic Acid. Deficiencies can lead to neural tube defects in the baby and these defects may occur before the woman even knows she’s pregnant. Other problems that may arise from lack of Folate during pregnancy may include low birth weight, preterm delivery, and fetal growth retardation.

Even though Folate is water soluble and the excess Folate is excreted from the body, it is possible to consume too much of the vitamin. The biggest concern is that excess Folate can mask the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency, leaving the Vitamin B12 deficiency unresolved before permanent neurological damage sets in. Because of this risk, there are safe upper limits established for Folate. These upper limits mark the safe territory for Folate for most people.

Folate is commonly measured in mcg DFE or micrograms of dietary folate equivalents. 1 mcg DFE is the same as 1 mcg Folate from food naturally containing Folate, .6 mcg Folic Acid from fortified food or supplements consumed with food, and .5 mcg Folic Acid from supplement taken without food. This difference represents the different availability of the different Folate types. Only about 50% of naturally occurring Folate is absorbed by the body, whereas approximately 85% of Folic Acid from fortified foods or supplements is absorbed. The recommended dietary allowances for certain age groups are commonly reached with fortified foods and naturally occurring sources of Folate.


(in years)


(mcg DFE)

Upper Limit

(mcg DFE)

0-1/2 65 Unknown
½-1 80 Unknown
1-3 150 300
4-8 200 400
9-13 300 600
14-18 400 800
19+ 400 1,000

Pregnant and lactating women require additional Folate to keep the women and their babies healthy. Upper limits have not been established for children under a year old. The group most at risk for consuming too much Folate is adults age 50+ that are taking supplements containing Folic Acid. This may cause additional problems as excessive Vitamin B9 can interact with some medications.

How to Get More Folate

Instead of consuming more synthetic Folic Acid, why not use more of the naturally occurring Folate already present in your diet? A recent study showed that by drinking Willard’s Water, you can absorb more Folate. Make your body happy by drinking Willard’s Water and absorbing more of the natural Folate your body needs.

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