Folic Acid Side Effects You Need To Know Now

One of eight B vitamins, Vitamin B9 is essential in the production of red blood cells and DNA formation, all while reducing the risk of certain health issues such as birth defects, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

As folate, vitamin B9 is naturally found in many types of food, mainly in leafy vegetables. As folic acid, it is available both in supplement form and in fortified foods.

Compared to folate, folic acid is easier to digest. However, like in the case of some vitamins, excessive intake of folic acid makes you prone to side effects that you will need to know now.

Folic Acid Side Effects

Vitamin B12 Deficiency 

Your body needs Vitamin B12 not only to create red blood cells, but also to keep your heart, brain and nervous system functioning at an optimal level. 

When left untreated, a B12 deficiency will result in reduced brain function, leading to permanent nervous system damage that makes a delayed diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency worrisome. Similar symptoms also result from a folate deficiency since both it and vitamin B12 are similarly used by your body. 

Some studies show that folic acid supplements may mask a megaloblastic anemia, potentially causing an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency to go undetected. If you are experiencing weakness, fatigue and other symptoms, it is best to have your vitamin B12 levels checked.

Accelerates Age-Related Mental Decline 

Excess folic acid intake can speed up age-related mental decline especially if you are low in vitamin B12. 

A study in healthy people aged over 60 linked high folate levels to mental decline in those with low B12 levels, but not in those with normal B12 levels. The participants' high folate levels are a result of intake of excessively high levels of folic acid present in fortified food and supplements, rather than through eating naturally folate-rich food. However, more studies are needed to support this conclusion.

Slows Child's Brain Development 

During pregnancy, adequate folate intake is needed for your baby's brain to develop while reducing the risk of malformation.

Women of childbearing age are often encouraged to take folic acid supplements because many women fail to get the RDI from food alone. However, excess folic acid not only increases insulin resistance, but even slows the child's brain development.

One study showed that 4 to 5-year olds whose mothers ingested over 1,000 micrograms of folic acid daily while pregnant (i.e. more than the tolerable Upper Intake Limit) had lower points on brain development tests than children of females who took a daily intake of 400-999 mcg. 

Although more research is needed, it is best to avoid exceeding the recommended folic acid intake during pregnancy unless advised otherwise by a certified health professional.

Increases Cancer Risk 

Folic acid may be a double-edged sword when it comes to preventing cancer, especially if you had already experienced at least one type. 

Research suggests that while exposing healthy cells to adequate folic acid levels prevents them from becoming cancerous, the same folic acid levels would cause cancer to spread if in contact with cancerous cells. 

However, overall research is mixed. While some studies suggest a minuscule increase in cancer risk for people taking folic acid supplements, most reported no link. 

The risk of cancer may depend on the type and personal health history. One research suggests that those with prostate or colorectal cancer who took more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid daily increases the risk of cancer returning by 1.7 to 6.4 percent, although more studies are needed to verify the claim. 

It is good to know that eating loads of folate-rich food do not appear to increase risk of cancer. On the contrary, eating them may actually aid in reducing it.

Folic Acid Folic acid, also known as folate, is one form of the Vitamin B9. Creative Commons