Folate, or Folic acid, is a B vitamin. It helps the body break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars to be used for energy. Folate (folic acid) is one of the B group of vitamins found in green vegetables in particular. The body's reserves of folate, unlike vitamin B12, are low and only sufficient for about four months. Causes of deficiency include
reduced intake from the diet or from poor absorption through the gut; increased demand for folate (eg pregnancy) and side effects of some medication (eg methotrexate). Symptoms include
fatigue, mild sensation changes and depression. Prolonged lack of folate results in megaloblastic anaemia (in which the red blood cells are characteristically large).
Folic acid deficiency is common in pregnant women, alcoholics, in patients whose diets do not include raw fruits and vegetables, and in people with structural damage to the small intestine.