Folic acid is a member of the vitamin B group.
Folic acid is reduced to a number of compounds including tetrahydrofolic acid in the body. In the reduced form it is a coenzyme acting as an acceptor of one-carbon units. It is required for the synthesis of purine and pyrimidine bases, for the metabolism of amino acids such as serine-glycine interconversion, methionine methyl group biosynthesis and the degradation of histidine.
It is involved in the maturation of all rapidly proliferating tissues particularly those of bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract. Folate deficiency leads to megaloblastic anaemia.
A number of recent trials have also shown that administration of folic acid in the early stages of pregnancy can reduce the incidence of spina bifida by up to two thirds.