Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9, is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for many bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. It is important for the growth and development of cells and tissues, especially during periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy and infancy.
Folic acid plays a crucial role in preventing birth defects, such as neural tube defects, in developing fetuses. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive take a folic acid supplement to ensure they get enough of this important vitamin.
Folic acid deficiency can cause a variety of health problems, including anemia, fatigue, weakness, irritability, and depression. In severe cases, it can lead to neurological problems, such as confusion and memory loss. Long-term deficiency can also increase the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer.
Foods that are high in folic acid include leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and fortified grains and cereals. However, it can be difficult to get enough folic acid through diet alone, which is why supplementation is often recommended for certain groups, such as pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.