Folate, a B vitamin, is essential for cell reproduction and growth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that women take 400 micrograms of folic acid, folate’s synthetic form, every day to promote health and help prevent birth defects. Little is known, however, about the link between dietary folate, folic acid supplementation, and fertility.
To determine whether dietary folate could improve fertility, scientists in the Epidemiology Branch within the Division of Intramural Population Health Research measured various reproductive hormone levels in healthy, menstruating women and collected self-reported dietary information at multiple time points within the women’s menstrual cycle. The women averaged about 27 years of age, were of normal body weight, and were physically active.
Researchers found that total folate intake was not associated with a decreased rate of anovulation (failure to release an egg from the ovaries). However, women with higher intake of folic acid were significantly less likely to experience anovulation. Higher folic acid intake was also associated with higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which is essential for successful implantation of a fertilized egg (PMID: 23050004).