Folic acid is an important factor for growth and is required so that blood (red blood cells) can form, as well as for normal cell division. This substance stimulates milk production in pregnant women and has a beneficial effect on skin and digestion. Folic acid is a sensitive marker indicating lack of absorption from the gut (e.g. in the case of coeliac disease, after small bowel resection). Also low in cases of inadequate intake (vegans, vegetarians, elderly people with unbalanced diets, run-down alcoholics). Folic acid deficiency is often found in people with vitamin B12 deficiency. Deficiencies are also found in cases of kidney failure.
Check for the cause of anemia. A folic acid test is often done at the same time as a test for vitamin B12 levels because a lack of either vitamin may cause anemia.
High levels may be seen in people with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Low values are seen in cases of malnutrition, malabsorption (particularly in the case of coeliac disease), pregnancy, haemolytic anaemia, myeloproliferative conditions, chronic inflammation, epilepsy treatment with phenytoin and barbiturates.