Folic Acid Deficiency
(Folate Deficiency; Folacin Deficiency)
by Diane Norwood, MS, RD, CDE
Folic acid deficiency means that there is a lower than normal amount of folic acid in your blood. Folic acid is a vitamin also called B9. It does not store well in the body. You must get a regular supply of it through your diet.
Folic acid (B9) plays a role in:
Folic acid deficiency may be caused by one or more of the following:
Many different conditions or habits can affect folic acid levels:
Folic acid deficiency may cause:
Complications from folic acid deficiency include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A blood test will show vitamin B levels. However, this may be due to other conditions. Red blood cell folate levels will also need to be tested. This will confirm folic acid problems.
It is important to confirm a diagnosis before treatment begins.
A folic acid supplement is often the first step. It can increase the folic acid in the body. Related conditions may also need treatment. It may help to improve the absorption of folic acid.
It will take some time for red blood cells to return to normal. The anemia will usually be cured within 2 months.
To get enough folate in your diet, consume plenty of the following foods:
If you have a condition that increases your risk of folic acid deficiency:
March of Dimes
Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health
Bariatric surgery. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T483434/Bariatric-surgery . Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Dietary supplement fact sheet: folate. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at:
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Updated April 20, 2016. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Folate deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114304/Folate-deficiency . Updated December 21, 2016. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 7/19/2018
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