How much folic acid you need per day depends primarily on your current phase of life: Adults need more folic acid or folate per day than children, while pregnant women should take a few more things into account. You can find out everything about the need, effect and correct intake in this article.
How much folic acid per day? These reference quantities apply
Folic acid is the synthetically produced form of the vitamin folate, which is also called vitamin B9. When taking it, you must note that the bioavailability of the various folic acid preparations differs from the usability of the folate that occurs naturally in food.
- The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends a daily dose of folate equivalents of 300 micrograms (μg) for adolescents and adults. Pregnant women, like breastfeeding women, have higher requirements. Accordingly, the recommended intake for pregnant women is 550 micrograms and for breastfeeding women 450 μg folate equivalents per day.
- Children between the ages of 10 and 15, on the other hand, should consume 240-300 μg folate equivalents/day, children up to 10 years of age 120-180 μg. A daily dose of 60-85 micrograms of folate equivalents applies to infants.
- Folate equivalents : The required amount of folate compounds is given in folate equivalents in order to be able to better compare the different bioavailabilities of the folate and folic acid compounds.
- If you take folate equivalents on an empty stomach, the following applies: 1 microgram of folate equivalent corresponds to 1 μg of folate from food or 0.5 μg of folic acid.
- If you ingest folic acid in the form of fortified foods, 1 μg of folate equivalent corresponds to 1 μg of dietary folate or 0.6 μg of folic acid.
- This difference is due to the fact that industrially produced folic acid can be better utilized than natural folate compounds.
Functions of folic acid in the body and in the unborn child
Folate or folic acid is vital because it is involved in various metabolic processes and is required, for example, for growth and cell division.
- A folate deficiency is noticeable, for example, through anemia.
- However, an overdose can also be partially harmful: While there are no risks associated with consuming too much folate, which occurs naturally in food, you should be careful with supplements and foods fortified with folic acid.
- The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) specifies a maximum tolerable total value of 1000 µg folic acid/day for adults. A tolerable total intake of 200 to 800 µg applies to children and adolescents up to the age of 17.
- Special values apply to pregnant women, because a folate deficiency before and during pregnancy harbors high risks for the baby: There is a risk of malformations ( neural tube defects ), especially in the area of the brain and spinal cord, such as an open back. Heart defects and other growth disorders must also be expected.
- Women in particular who want to become pregnant or are in the first trimester of pregnancy should therefore eat a diet rich in folate. In the first four weeks, the neural tube of the unborn baby closes, a process in which folate is significantly involved. Taking folic acid supplements during this period can reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
- If you would like to become pregnant and are unsure how much folic acid you need or are already taking, you should definitely speak to your doctor. They can also advise you on whether you should take a folic acid supplement.
Foods for a folate-rich diet
As a rule, and especially outside of pregnancy, the amount of folate recommended by the DGE can be ingested through a balanced and healthy diet.
- Folate is found in various animal and plant foods. Good sources of folate include primarily green vegetables, tomatoes, beetroot and leaves such as spinach and lettuce.
- Sprouts, wheat germ, legumes, nuts, whole grain products, potatoes, liver and eggs are also rich in folate. Oranges also contain significant amounts of folate.
- For adequate folate intake, make sure to eat three servings of vegetables per day. Eat the vegetables raw if possible or just steam them gently.
- To prevent a folic acid deficiency, you should refrain from regular alcohol consumption, as it inhibits the absorption of folate.
- In addition, some medications, especially against epilepsy and cancer, but also the contraceptive pill, reduce the absorption capacity of folate or folic acid.
- Chronic intestinal diseases can also lead to a folic acid deficiency.
- In one of these cases, talk to your doctor.