Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia: Causes
British Columbia Specific Information
Folic acid is a form of folate and everyone needs some folate in their bodies. Folate helps make red and white blood cells. For information on folate and folic acid, see HealthLinkBC File #68g Folate and Your Health.
Folate is also needed for growth, especially in unborn babies. Folate helps prevent some birth defects, such as defects of the brain and spinal cord. Brain or spinal cord defects are called neural tube defects (NTDs). For more information, see HealthLinkBC File #38c Pregnancy and Nutrition: Folate and Neural Tube Defects.
Call 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian, Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or Email a HealthLinkBC Dietitian for additional information on folate and your health.
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins. It helps produce red blood cells. Low levels of folic acid (also called folate) in the body decrease production of red blood cells and cause folic acid deficiency anemia.
Causes of folic acid deficiency anemia include:
- Not eating enough foods that contain folic acid.
- Unhealthy diets may not have much folic acid.
- People who have the eating disorder anorexia nervosa severely limit how much they eat, including those foods that contain folic acid.
- Having an increased need for folic acid. This might
- Pregnancy. Pregnant women need more folic acid to protect their babies from birth defects, such as neural tube defects.
- Blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia, that use up the body's supply of folic acid.
- Diseases that cause rapid cell growth, such as leukemia or psoriasis.
- An increased rate of metabolism, as might happen with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). This uses up the body's store of folic acid faster than it is absorbed.
- Not absorbing or retaining folic acid. This can be caused by:
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Having hemodialysis.
- Having an intestinal problem such as celiac disease.
- Taking certain medicines, including medicine used to treat cancer.
Other Works Consulted
- Andres E (2015). Pernicious anemia and other megaloblastic anemias. In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2015, pp. 878–881. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Joseph O'Donnell, MD - Hematology, Oncology
Current as ofJuly 10, 2015
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