Seniors need folate for good health. Folate is needed for new and developing cells. No matter what your age, your body makes new cells every day for skin, blood, hair, intestinal tract and others.

Health Benefits of Folate

Folate also has been associated with reducing the risk for some diseases that affect us later in life. Studies show that higher levels of homocysteine (pronounced hoe-moe-SIS-teen), an amino acid found in blood, may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Folate can help reduce the amount of homocysteine in the blood, which may help to reduce the risk for heart disease.

How Much Folate Seniors Need

The Institute of Medicine (now known as the National Academy of Medicine) established the following Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for folate: 400 micrograms DFE per day for all men and women 51 and older (Institute of Medicine, 1998).

Vitamin Supplements

Check with your doctor before starting to take over-the-counter pills, such as a multivitamin, folic acid pill, or herbals. In rare cases, folic acid intakes greater than 1,000 micrograms per day may delay the diagnosis of a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause serious problems with nerve function if undetected.

This 1,000 microgram upper level only applies to folic acid from vitamin supplements or fortified foods. It does NOT apply to the folate you get naturally from folate-rich foods. This is because the folic acid in supplements and fortified foods is more easily absorbed by the body compared to natural food folate.

It's a good idea to have your doctor test you for a vitamin B12 deficiency before you start taking a multivitamin or folic acid supplement, and you should not supplement with folic acid in excess of 400 micrograms per day.

Folic Acid and Birth Defects

Help support the younger women in your life that you love--your daughter, granddaughter, niece, grandniece, or younger friends. Remind them to take a multivitamin with folic acid or a folic acid supplement every day.

Folic acid may help women reduce their risk of having a baby with certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord called neural tube defects (NTDs). It is recommended by the US Public Health Service and other organizations (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics) that all women of childbearing age take folic acid for reducing their risk of having a baby with these defects.

Remember, whether you are hoping for grandchildren or not-- almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned! So, it is especially important for the women of childbearing age in your life to get enough folic acid every day.


Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington DC: National Academy Press; 1998.



Folate may help to reduce the risk for diseases and conditions that affect us later in life, such as heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer's disease, and age-related dementia.

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