Symptoms, conditions and causes

Folic Acid and B12 Deficiency

The Masking Effect of Folic Acid on B12 Deficiency

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that's essential for DNA synthesis and red blood cell production. It's often added to fortified foods like breakfast cereals and breads to help prevent neural tube defects in pregnancy.

But while folic acid fortification has been successful in reducing the incidence of these birth defects, it may also be masking a hidden problem: vitamin B12 deficiency.

Pills forming B12 shape

Fortified Foods and Nutrient Interactions

The problem with folic acid is that it can correct the megaloblastic anemia caused by B12 deficiency, but it doesn't address the underlying deficiency itself.

This means that someone could have a serious B12 deficiency but not show any obvious symptoms because the folic acid is masking the anemia.

Over time, untreated B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible neurological damage, even if the anemia is being corrected by folic acid. This is why it's so important to test for B12 deficiency, especially in older adults and vegetarians/vegans who may be at a higher risk.

While food fortification can be a useful tool for preventing nutrient deficiencies, it's important to be aware of potential interactions between nutrients like folic acid and B12.

If you're relying on fortified foods as a major source of your B vitamins, make sure also to include plenty of B12-rich foods in your diet or consider supplementing to ensure you're meeting your needs.

Last updated: May 08, 2024 14:18 PM