Folic acid deficiency is one of the more widespread
vitamin deficiencies and often occurs in alcoholics, women who are
pregnant, in people who have problems with absorption (with inflammatory
bowel disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease),
and in people who are taking some prescribed medicines (like methotrexate
and cholestyramine). A folate deficiency may happen due to a lack
of dietary consumption or because of a problem absorbing it via
Signs of folic acid deficiency are often quite
subtle. In many cases a folic acid deficiency occurs without any
Symptoms of folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency
include anemia and mood disorders. Low levels of folic acid may
contribute to depression, possibly because of a resulting lowering
of neurotransmitter levels.
Poor dietary intake of folic acid can result
in growth retardation, macrocytic anemia, glossitis, and gastro-intestinal
In more extreme cases of folic acid deficiency,
symptoms including macrocytic anaemia, weakness, fatigue, mood instability,
problems breathing, anorexia, diarrhea, weight loss, headaches,
and palpitations may occur.
Folate deficiency seems to be connected to
cervical dysplasia. It has also been linked with coronary artery
disease and peripheral vascular disease.
The daily requirement for folic acid intake
increases substantially during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are
folate deficient have an elevated risk for giving birth to infants
who have a low birth weight, are premature, and/or babies who suffer
from neural tube defects. Neural tube defects can include such things
as cleft palate, spina bifida, or even brain damage. Neural tube
defects (NTDs) impact almost 4,000 pregnancies in the U.S. every
year. The Center for Disease Control and the United States Public
Health Service have estimated that an intake of 400 micrograms of
folic acid each day could possibly result in the prevention of almost
70% of birth defects.