Folic acid is one of the B-complex vitamins necessary for good health. A lack of folic acid in the diet can lead to anemia. In pregnant women, folic acid deficiency can cause a group of serious birth defects called neural tube defects, including the spinal disorder spina bifida «SPY nuh BIHF uh duh». Neural tube defects result when the brain, spinal cord, or other parts of the central nervous system do not form properly during fetal development. Physicians advise all women who may become pregnant or who are pregnant to add folic acid to their diet to prevent such birth defects.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of folic acid for an adult is 400 micrograms daily. Folic acid occurs naturally in small amounts in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, dried beans, nuts, and milk. Other sources include fortified grain products and vitamin supplements.
Folic acid also helps break down a substance called homocysteine «HOH muh SIHS tee ihn» in the blood. High levels of homocysteine have been linked with increased risk of heart disease.