Folic acid is beneficial in preventing miscarriage and certain birth defects as well as for reducing the risk of high blood pressure and anemia in women, according to MedicineNet. Folic acid, also known as folate, is a form of the water-soluble vitamin B-9.
Folic acid helps the body produce and maintain new cells, particularly red blood cells, states Medical News Today. The human body does not store folic acid, so it needs to be acquired through diet or by taking supplements. Some foods high in folic acid include dried beans, leafy green vegetables, peas and fruit. Studies show that folic acid greatly reduces the incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida, which occurs when the fetus’ spine and back do not close during development. Therefore, folic acid supplements are routinely prescribed to women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.
A synthetic form of folic acid has been used to fortify foods since 1998. Folic acid supplements are available without a prescription and are considered safe. Anemia in both adults and children is attributed in part to inadequate levels of folic acid, reports MedicineNet. Patients with low levels of folic acid experience fatigue, forgetfulness, irritability, loss of appetite and weight loss. Other risks associated with folic acid deficiency include a higher risk of second heart attacks, strokes, depression and some cancers.