Folic Acid is a B vitamin necessary for DNA production and cell division. It is known to help prevent certain birth defects, known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Spina bifida and anencephaly are the two most common types of NTDs.
Folic acid is sometimes called Folate. Technically, folic acid refers to the synthetic form of the vitamin and folate refers to the form found naturally in food. Folic acid has greater bioavailability.
Folic acid also assists blood cell production –important during normal health as well as in pregnancy to avoid anemia, and it may help with normal placental function and fetal growth. Recently, the contribution which folic acid makes towards health maintenance has been recognized in research demonstrating a possible role in preventing heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that all women of reproductive age consume 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid daily, in addition to eating a healthy diet.