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What to Know About Folate Deficiency Anemia

Folate, is a water-soluble vitamin that helps in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and red blood cells.

It is important for proper growth and development, during pregnancy and infancy.

Folate is found naturally in foods and supplements.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what you need to know about folate deficiency, its causes, symptoms, and how to treat and prevent it.

Why Do We Need Folate?

Folate keeps the blood vessels healthy and prevents heart disease.

It does this by converting homocysteine into methionine.

It is also essential for proper fetal development, particularly in the formation of the neural tube.

Not getting enough folate has been linked to anemia, birth defects, and other health problems.

What is Folate Deficiency Anemia?

Folate deficiency anemia occurs when the body doesn’t get enough folate.

When folate levels in the blood are low, the body can’t produce new cells to replace old ones, causing a range of symptoms.

Folate deficiency is more common in pregnant women, as the body needs folate during pregnancy.

However, anyone can develop folate deficiency anemia if they don’t get enough of this important nutrient in their diet.

At times, some health conditions also interfere with folate absorption.

Causes of Folate Deficiency Anemia

Folate deficiency is caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Inadequate dietary intake
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Taking drugs like Phenytoin
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Colorectal cancer

Symptoms of Folate Deficiency Anemia

Folate deficiency symptoms may be mild while others are more severe. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Pale skin
  • Headaches
  • Tongue swelling

Who is at Risk for Folate Deficiency Anemia?

People with poor dietary intake of folate, and in individuals who have health conditions that interferes with the absorption of folate.

Some of the populations who may be at higher risk for folate deficiency include:

Pregnant and Lactating Women

Pregnant and lactating women need more folate to support fetal growth and milk production.

If a pregnant woman doesn’t have enough folate, it increases the chances of the baby developing neural tube defects.

And if a breastfeeding mother is not having sufficient amounts of folate in her milk, it can affect the growth and development of the baby.

Infants and Children

Infants and young children are at risk for deficiency if they are not getting enough folate through poor dietary intake.

Elderly People

Older people may have a higher chance of not getting enough folate because they may not eat enough foods that contain it.

In addition, the medications they take and changes in their body’s ability to absorb and process nutrients may also increase their risk for folate deficiency.

People with celiac disease

People with celiac disease are more likely to develop folate deficiency due to problems with nutrient absorption and poor diet.

Vegetarians and vegans

Folate is found in high amounts in animal-based foods, so individuals who follow a strict vegan diet are at higher risk of folate deficiency if they do not consume folate-rich plant-based foods.


A serum folate test measures the folate levels in your blood.

The normal range for serum folate levels in adults is between 2.7 and 17.0 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).

If the test results falls below the range, then it is considered as folate deficiency anemia.

Other diagnostic tests include vitamin B12 test, as low B12 levels causes megaloblastic anemia.


If you have trouble meeting your daily folate needs through your diet alone, you may want to consider taking a folic acid supplement.

Supplementation with folic acid can be taken orally or by injection.

The recommended daily intake of folate is 400-600 mcg for most adults.

However, if you have a diagnosed folate deficiency, the recommended higher dose, is usually between 1,000 and 2,000 mcg per day.


You can prevent folate deficiency by eating a diet rich in folate, limiting the amount of alcohol you’re taking, and avoiding cigarette smoking.

Some examples of folate-rich foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Oranges
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Fortified cereals

Conclusion: What to know about folate deficiency anemia

Folate is a nutrient that our body needs for several functions.

If there’s low levels of folate in the blood, it can create many health problems.

You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of folate deficiency, as well as the risk factors involved, and the methods of prevention and treatment.

Early diagnosis and treatment of folate deficiency anemia will help prevent complications and promote optimal health.

More research is needed to better understand the role of folate in health, as well as discovering new ways to treat and prevent folate deficiency.

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