A folic acid test measures the amount of Reference folic acid Opens New Window in the blood. Folic acid is one of many B vitamins. The body needs folic acid to make Reference red blood cells (RBC) Opens New Window, Reference white blood cells (WBC) Opens New Window, Reference platelets Opens New Window, and for normal growth. Folic acid also is important for the normal development of a baby (Reference fetus Opens New Window).
Folic acid can be measured in the liquid portion of blood (Reference plasma Opens New Window). 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 2 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.
Women who 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 Reference cleft lip Opens New Window or Reference cleft palate Opens New Window or a Reference neural tube defect Opens New Window, such as Reference spina bifida Opens New Window.
Folic acid deficiency can result in a type of anemia called Reference megaloblastic anemia Opens New Window. 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.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference December 20, 2010|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology