Folic acid, or folate, has several functions including its action with vitamin B 12 in rapidly dividing cells. Deficiency leads to a characteristic (megaloblastic) form of anaemia which must be distinguished from that caused by a deficiency of vitamin B 12.
Folic acid deficiency can arise not only from a poor diet, as with some elderly people, but also because of increased needs for the synthesis of red blood cells in pregnant women and premature infants, and when there is decreased absorption of folic acid in gastro-intestinal disease or when some anti-epileptic drugs are given.
Sources of folic acids in foods
Folic acid occurs in small amounts in many foods, but is especially rich in offal and raw green leafy vegetables.
Most fruits, meat and dairy produce contain little. Folic acid is readily destroyed in cooking, much being lost in the water used for cooking vegetables, and it is also readily oxidized to unavailable forms of the vitamin.
Thus care should be taken to include good sources of folic acid in the diet to minimize the risk of deficiency.