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Women Taking a Folic Acid Supplement in Countries with Mandatory Food Fortification Programs May Be Exceeding the Upper Tolerable Limit of Folic Acid: A Systematic Review

In preconception and pregnancy, women are encouraged to take folic acid-based supplements over and above food intake. The upper tolerable limit of folic acid is 1000 mcg per day; however, this level was determined to avoid masking a vitamin B12 deficiency and not based on folic acid bioavailability and metabolism. This review’s aim is to assess the total all-source intake of folate in women of childbearing age and in pregnancy in high-income countries with folate food fortification programs. Methods: A systematic search was conducted in five databases to find studies published since 1998 that reported folate and folic acid intake in countries with a mandatory fortification policy. Results: Women of childbearing age do not receive sufficient folate intake from food sources alone even when consuming fortified food products; however, almost all women taking a folic acid-based supplement exceed the upper tolerable limit of folic acid intake. Conclusions: Folic acid supplement recommendations and the upper tolerable limit of 1000 mcg set by policy makers warrant careful review in light of potential adverse effects of exceeding the upper tolerable limit on folic acid absorption and metabolism, and subsequent impacts on women’s health during their childbearing years.

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