Folic Acid (Pteroylglutamic Acid)
Several pteroylglutamic acids exhibit the “folic acid effect.” Folic acid functions as a carrier of hydroxy-methyl and formyl groups. Perhaps its most importantuse in the body is in the synthesis of purines and thymine, which are required for formation of DNA. Therefore,folic acid, like vitamin B12, is required for replication of the cellular genes. This may explain one of the most important functions of folic acid—to promote growth. Indeed, when it is absent from the diet, an animal grows very little.
Folic acid is an even more potent growth promoter than vitamin B12 and, like vitamin B12, is important for the maturation of red blood cells. However, vitamin B12 and folic acid each perform specific and different chemical functions in promoting growth and maturation of red blood cells. One of the significant effects of folic acid deficiency is the development of macrocytic anemia, almost identical to that which occurs in pernicious anemia. This often can be treated effectively with folic acid alone.