A folic acid test measures the amount of
folic acid in the blood. Folic acid is one of many B
vitamins. The body needs folic acid to make
red blood cells (RBC),
white blood cells (WBC), and
platelets, and for normal growth. Folic acid also
is important for the normal development of a baby (fetus).
Folic acid can be measured in the liquid portion of blood (plasma). This reflects a person's recent intake of
folic acid in the diet. Folic acid is found in foods such as liver; citrus
fruits; dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach); whole grains; cereals with
added B vitamins; beans; milk; kidney; and yeast.
Folic acid can
also be measured as the amount in the red blood cells. This test may be a
better way than the plasma test to measure the amount of folic acid stored in
the body. The amount of folic acid in red blood cells measures the level when
the cell was made, as much as 4 months earlier. This level is not usually
affected by the amount of folic acid in your diet each day. It is a more
accurate way to measure the body's level of folic acid.
are pregnant or planning to become pregnant need extra folic acid to make more
red blood cells and maintain normal growth of their baby. Women who do not get
enough folic acid before and during pregnancy are more likely to have a child
born with a birth defect, such as a
cleft lip or
cleft palate or a
neural tube defect, such as
Folic acid deficiency can
result in a type of anemia called
megaloblastic anemia. Mild folic acid deficiency
usually does not cause any symptoms. Severe folic acid deficiency may cause a
sore tongue, diarrhea, headaches, weakness, forgetfulness, and fatigue.