Folic acid – and its natural form, folate – is vital for our body’s healthy cell growth, cell function, and red blood cell formation.

It’s part of why folic acid – also known as vitamin B9 – is so important for expectant mothers. B9 helps to prevent neural tube defects in babies in the womb.

But lacking in folic acid can have negative effects on adults as well. One of the biggest side effects of a folic acid deficiency is megaloblastic anemia; a condition in which the body’s red blood cells are abnormally large and in low supply, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

The signs below are common in adults who have a folic acid deficiency:

  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • Pins and needles in your feet or hands
  • A sore, red tongue or mouth ulcers
  • Muscle weakness, including muscle strain
  • Disturbed or blurry vision
  • Discoloration of the skin or nails
  • Premature gray hair
  • Cognitive issues, including problems with memory, understanding, and judgement

For those who experience several of these symptoms, your doctor should be contacted immediately.

The body does not produce vitamin B9 naturally, which is why adults need to get their 400 mcg of folate through diet and over the counter supplements like folic acid. Foods like dark leafy greens, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are loaded with folate. You can also eat breakfast cereals, grains, and flour products like bread, pasta, and rice, which are fortified with folic acid.

There are numerous benefits of taking folic acid for women of all ages. Check out the various age groups on our site to learn more.