Folic acid or folate (as it is naturally called) is a part of the B family of vitamins, namely that of vitamin B9. It is of cardinal importance for the numerous functions and processes in human body. It is very useful in the growth and multiplication of cells and DNA synthesis. For the formation of red and white cells and various other functions related to nervous system and functions of heart, it plays a vital role. For women of child-bearing age and those who are expecting, requisite intake is a must as the deficiency of this component in the body can create several complications related to birth.
In our body folate is not readily available and hence intake of folic acid enriched food and supplements are a must to prevent from any deficiency. Folate is naturally available in various food items like leafy and green vegetables, legumes, some citrus fruits, selected meat products etc. It also0 occurs in fortified form in grain products and breakfast cereals. Human body is, however, capable of absorbing it better in the form of supplements. A well-balanced healthy diet with the supplements is enough to meet the adequate dose that our body requires.
For an adult around daily 400 mcg of folic acid is recommended. However, for a pregnant and breast- feeding women the dose is high and is around 600 mcg per day. Again for people suffering from deficiency of folic acid the requisite dose ranges between 400 mcg to 1000 mcg but this is highly specific on the individual needs and also depends on the degree of deficiency.
Overdose of any component in human body can create adverse effects and with this vitamin it is no exception. It is said to have very less side effects and cause no health problems. Generally, the excess intake is excreted with urine but the overdose can create certain complications. The toxic impact is not common but high dose especially above 1000 mcg impact the body. As per the report of University of Maryland, only a dose as high as 1500 mcg of folic acid per day lead to side effects.
Mild side effects of overdose of folic acid include low appetite, bad or bitter taste in mouth, excessive flatulence, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling with cramps, gas and bloating tendencies, hyperactivity, lack of concentration and insomnia. Severe effects include hives, swelling of the face, lips and tongues, skin rashes accompanied with itching, difficulty in breathing and even psychotic behaviour occurs. High dose can especially lead to a deficiency in vitamin B12 that may lead to severe complications like nerve damage and even enhance the risk of cancer.
In case of any of these symptoms occur then it is always advisable to take proper consultation and immediately one should take seek medical advise. Supplements and recommended dosages of intake should be taken only after specialized consultation. Overdose can lead to a deficiency in vitamin B12, hence with folic acid, proper supplement of the vitamin is advisable so that the balance is well maintained.