Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Folic Acid Bad For You?

Also Known As: vitamin M, vitamin B9, vitamin Bc



Short answer

Although folic acid can be beneficial in some situations, excessive consumption can cause more harm than good. We highly recommend opting for foods naturally rich in folate, rather than consuming its synthetic counterpart.



Long answer

Folate (also referred to as vitamin B9) is a term applied to a collection of water soluble b-vitamins that occur naturally. Without the full range of these natural substances, our bodies can become susceptible to a host of diseases like coronary heart disease, neural tube defects, Alzheimer’s, hearing loss and a variety of cancers. 

Folic acid is a synthetic substance created in 1941. As of 1998, federal law mandates that folic acid be added to food items like cereals, breads, pasta, flour and many others and today it has pretty much replaced the natural forbearer.

Folate is converted into tetrahydrofolate (THF) in the small intestine fairly easily so the body can use it. Folic acid, on the other hand, can only be converted into THF in the presence of an enzyme dihydrofolate reductase in the liver. Unfortunately, this enzyme is not too active in the body. The minimal activity of this enzyme coupled with the high intake of folic acid from the fortified foods leads to elevated levels of folic acid entering the blood stream without being metabolized. A number of studies have confirmed the presence of folic acid in plasma after consumption of folic acid fortified foods which in turn is linked to a reduction in the presence of natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells respond rapidly to "bad cells" and work to wipe out infections, tumor growth, etc. Naturally, the fewer CK cells present, the weaker your immune system. 

The reason for adding folic acid to various food items was to eliminate folate deficiencies. Appropriate folate consumption is associated with helping red blood cell development, supporting the functioning of the nervous system and preventing neural tube defects in babies. This is why it is recommended that pregnant women take roughly twice the amount of folate as post child bearing aged women and men. It is difficult to meet this quantity on diet alone, hence the need for vitamins during pregnancy. It is better that pregnant women take supplements with folate and not folic acid.

The remaining population can easily attain the required amount of folate from a well-balanced diet. Foods that house elevated quantities of folate include green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and okra, and fruits like bananas, lemons, and melons. Additionally, beans, mushrooms, and meats like liver or kidney are also high in folate.

Possible short-term side effects

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • rash
  • sleep disorders
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • nausea

Possible long-term side effects

  • lowered immunity (ck cell reduction)

Commonly found in


  • proven to help prevent neural tube defects

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Written by Desmond | 07-03-2016

Written by Desmond
Suggest improvement or correction

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