What is folic acid?

Folic acid (also known as folate or folacin) is a water-soluble vitamin, which belongs to the group of B-complex vitamins, they are usually consumed through eating food. These vitamins help in the process of breaking down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars to be used by the body as an energy source. They are absorbed in the intestine and stored in the liver, however any excess B vitamins are excreted from the body rather than stored for later use by the body, which is why a sufficient daily intake of folic acid is necessary for the body to function properly. They play a key role in the proper functioning of the bodies red blood and white blood cells and for the metabolism of amino acids and nucleotides. Foods which contain folic acid are as follows; leafy green vegetables, liver, brussel sprouts, beans, oranges, mushrooms, wheat germ, asparagus, tuna, poultry, beets, spinach, broccoli, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupes.

Why measure the level of folic acid?

Folic acid works together with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help metabolize protein in the human body. It is important and necessary for the proper differentiation and growth of cells and for the development for the fetus. It is also used to form the nucleic acid of DNA and RNA in the human body. A deficiency of folic acid may lead to serious health problems. If there is less folic acid in the body, there will be a decreased production of red blood cells, which will lead to a reduction of oxygen and nutrients that are able to get tissues. Many symptoms may appear due to this deficiency, such as fatigue, confusion, forgetfulness and a reduced secretion of digestive acids. A folic acid deficiency also leads to an increase in the levels of homocysteine and megalobastic anemia. Adequate levels of folic acid are particularly important in pregnancy, in fact a deficiency may cause neural tube defects in the fetus known as spina bifida or anencephaly, which means the neural tube of the embryo develops into the brain, spinal cord, spinal column and the skull, and if any of these form incompletely during the first few months of pregnancy, a serious and often fatal defect may result. Other problems that may occur with pregnant women who have a deficient of folic acid are as follows, preeclampsia, premature birth, and increased bleeding after birth. Some studies have also suggested that the long term use of folic acid supplements, may also help prevent diseases such as colon and lung cancer, in some cases.

Standard of preparation

Sampling of the blood is usually done in the morning visit to the hospital. The doctor will also recommend if the patient needs to be fasting prior to the blood exam.

Is the exam painful or dangerous?

The examination is neither painful nor dangerous and involves no risk to the patient. The patient may feel a slight tingling sensation, when the needle enters the arm.

How is the exam performed?

The examination is performed with a simple blood test.