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Drug Profile

The information on this site is intended to supplement and enhance, not replace, the advice of a physician who is familiar with your medical history. Decisions about your health should always be made ONLY after detailed conversation with your doctor.

Generic drug name: folate [folic acid] (FOE late)
Brand name(s): FOLVITE
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Vitamins
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Generic drug name: folic acid, B6 [pyridoxine], and B12 [cyanocobalamin] (FOE lik A sid, pir i DOK sin and sye AN oh koe BAL a min)
Brand name(s): FOLTX
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Vitamins
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings [top]

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings

Vitamins taken at the level that supplies normal body needs (not megadoses) do not pose a risk to the fetus or the nursing infant.

Facts About This Drug [top]

 

FOODS HIGH IN FOLIC ACID (FOLATE)

Organ meats and nuts (both are high in cholesterol and/or fat), green vegetables, dried beans, fruits, yeast, whole grains. Cooking may destroy some folic acid.

½ cup spinach 110 micrograms folic acid
1 ounce chicken liver 108 micrograms folic acid
½ cup peanuts 60 micrograms folic acid
1 ounce shredded wheat 30 micrograms folic acid

Folic...

 

FOODS HIGH IN FOLIC ACID (FOLATE)

Organ meats and nuts (both are high in cholesterol and/or fat), green vegetables, dried beans, fruits, yeast, whole grains. Cooking may destroy some folic acid.

½ cup spinach 110 micrograms folic acid
1 ounce chicken liver 108 micrograms folic acid
½ cup peanuts 60 micrograms folic acid
1 ounce shredded wheat 30 micrograms folic acid

Folic acid, also called folate or vitamin B9, is essential for cell formation and growth, particularly of blood cells. It is found in several foods (see box above). A well-balanced diet with a variety of healthful foods should supply all the folic acid your body needs. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of folic acid for adults over 50 is 400 micrograms per day for both men and women.

It is unlikely that you would have a diet-related folic acid deficiency. Rather, certain medical conditions or the long-term use of several drugs can lead to a folic acid deficiency. Alcoholism is perhaps the most common cause because alcoholics often eat an inadequate diet. Some diseases of the small intestine can also interfere with your body’s absorption of folic acid, so there is less available for the body to use. Long-term treatment with drugs such as methotrexate, trimethoprim, triamterene, corticosteroids, certain painkillers, sulfasalazine, and some anticonvulsants (phenobarbital, phenytoin, and primidone) can also cause a folic acid deficiency.

If you have to increase your intake of folic acid in order to prevent or treat a deficiency, eat folate-rich foods rather than taking a vitamin supplement. (See table above.) You should only take a supplement when you have a clear need for more folic acid and when you cannot get enough from your diet. You should not take a supplement until your doctor has made sure that you do not have pernicious anemia, a disease resulting in vitamin B12 deficiency. Folic acid supplements can hide the easily detected symptoms of pernicious anemia while allowing irreversible nervous system damage to occur undetected.

Folic acid has been shown to prevent neural tube defects, a serious type of birth defect, and as of January 1998, all grains sold in the United States contain 140 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams (about 3 ounces). Even this amount, however, may be inadequate for prevention of neural tube defects, which occur early in pregnancy, before most women know that they are pregnant. The current recommendation is that women of childbearing age should also receive 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.[1]

“The main concern regarding ingestion of excess folic acid is the consequential masking of vitamin B12 deficiency. A general consistency of data indicates that supplementation with 1 mg/day or less of folic acid does not mask vitamin B12-associated anaemia in the majority of subjects, whereas supplementation with 5 mg/day or more of folic acid does. The effects of doses of between 1 and 5 mg/day are unclear. No other significant adverse effects have been associated with ingestion of folic acid. For guidance purposes only, in the general population a supplemental dose of 1 mg/day would not be expected to cause adverse effects. Assuming a maximum intake from food of approximately 0.49 mg/day, a total dose of 1.5 mg/day would not be expected to have any adverse effects.”[2]

A recent randomized trial sought to find out if folic acid supplements (0.5 milligrams per day) would decrease the rate of death and cardiovascular events in people with stable coronary artery disease. After two years of folic acid supplements, there was no improvement in outcomes in those who got folic acid compared to those randomized to get standard care. The authors concluded that “low-dose folic acid supplementation should be treated with reservation” and that “the study does not seem to support the routine use of folic acid in patients with stable CAD [coronary artery disease].”[3]

In addition, two studies posted on the web site of the New England Journal of Medicine on March 12, 2006, showed that vitamin supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 did not reduce the risk of major cardiovascular outcomes, such as heart attack or stroke, in patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease or after a heart attack.[4],[5]

A recent Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN) systematic review revealed that, with a few possible exceptions, dietary supplements offer no benefits to well-nourished adults eating a Western diet and, in many cases, may be harmful. The results of this study reinforce Worst Pills, Best Pills News’ longstanding view that there is little evidence that dietary supplements are either safe or effective.

The study authors concluded that with the possible exception of vitamin D in elderly patients and omega-3 fatty acids in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease, no data support the widespread use of dietary supplements in the U.S. and other Western countries. Indeed, the data suggest that certain commonly used dietary supplements, including beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E, may be harmful. We agree.[6]

If you take folic acid without a doctor’s supervision, do not exceed the RDA.

The following information does not apply to the vitamin B12 component. See the vitamin B12 [cyanocobalamin] profile for more information.

Before You Use This Drug [top]

Tell your doctor if you have or have had:

  • allergy to folic acid
  • pernicious anemia
  • pregnancy or are breast-feeding

Tell your doctor about any other drugs you take, including aspirin, herbs, vitamins, and other nonprescription products.

How to Use This Drug [top]

  • Do not share your medication with others.
  • As with all drugs, it is important to take this one regularly. However, because of the length of time required for a folic acid deficiency to occur, there is no cause for concern if a dose is missed. If you miss a dose, take it when you remember.
  • Take the drug at the same time(s) each day.
  • Store at room temperature with lid on tightly. Do not store in the bathroom. Do not expose to heat, moisture, or strong light. Keep out of reach of children.

Interactions with Other Drugs [top]

The following drugs, biologics (e.g., vaccines, therapeutic antibodies), or foods are listed in Evaluations of Drug Interactions 2003 as causing “highly clinically significant” or “clinically significant” interactions when used together with any of the drugs in this section. In some sections with multiple drugs, the interaction may have been reported for one but not all drugs in this section, but we include the interaction because the drugs in this section are similar to one another. We have also included potentially serious interactions listed in the drug’s FDA-approved professional package insert or in published medical journal articles. There may be other drugs, especially those in the families of drugs listed below, that also will react with this drug to cause severe adverse effects. Make sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist the drugs you are taking and tell them if you are taking any of these interacting drugs:

altretamine, cholestyramine, DILANTIN, HEXALEN, levodopa, LOCHOLEST, phenytoin, QUESTRAN, SINEMET.

Adverse Effects [top]

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest tightness
  • wheezing
  • reddened skin
  • fever
  • general weakness or discomfort
  • skin rash or itching
  • dependency (vitamin B6)
  • unstable walking (vitamin B6)
  • numb feet (vitamin B6)
  • hand numbness and clumsiness (vitamin B6)

last reviewed May 31, 2021