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Folic Acid Side Effects

Find out if folic acid benefits outweigh the side effects.

eSupplements.com Folic Acid Side Effects

Folic acid is a water-soluble B9 vitamin form included by law in several foods such as cold cereal, baked goods, pastas, and cookies.[1] Its natural form, folate, is found in fruits, spinach, broccoli, and other leafy vegetables.

There are several benefits associated with folic acid ingestion. However, like most things in life, too much of a good thing may be bad.

What Are Adverse Effects?

Recommended daily amounts for adults range up to 400 mcg. Supplementing higher folic acid amounts should be done under a health professional’s care because medical and academic authorities warn higher levels may cause negative side effects.[2]

Hides Vitamin B Deficiencies

eSupplements.com Folic Acid Side Effects

Consuming unsafe folic acid amounts may make it difficult to detect vitamin B12 deficiencies (anemia). These deficiencies may result in serious damage to the nervous system.[2]

Causes Abdominal Cramps

Folic acid doses exceeding more than 5 mg per day may lead to digestive problems, with abdominal cramps being a common side effect.[3]

Increases Cancer Risk In Pregnant Women

One study reveals folate ingestion by pregnant women may increase breast cancer risks. However, this study is said to be based on “questionable validity” by the NYU Langone Medical Center.[4] Medical authorities indicate as of now “it is not considered a significant concern, but further research will follow.”[3]

Interacts Negatively With Certain Medication

Folic acid is not recommended to be taken with tetracycline, an antibiotic, as it may inhibit absorption.

Other drugs that should not be taken with folic acid include phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication; chemotherapy medications; and pyrimethamine, drug that ameliorates malaria.[3]

What Are Some Benefits?

eSupplements.com Folic Acid Side Effects

Most folic acid side effects result from taking excessive amounts. When used appropriately, its benefits appear to outweigh its adverse effects.

Indirectly Improves Depression

According to one study, researchers found folate supplementation around 500 mcg daily improved antidepressant medication effectiveness.[5]

Prevents Heart Disease & Stroke

Folic may reduce homocysteine levels in some circumstances. Higher homocysteine levels are linked to heart disease and stroke.

During one study, 30 patients undergoing long-term metformin treatment were given .25 folate and 60 mg Fe2+ or a placebo and 60 mg Fe2+. Researchers observed folate administration reduced homocysteine serum levels more than the placebo group.[6]

Combats Chronic Fatigue

Folic acid’s ability to fight chronic fatigue is still being understood, but research is promising.

In one study, researchers analyzed serum folate levels in several patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Results reveal around 50% had low folate values.[7]


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