Micronutrients and women of reproductive potential: required dietary intake and consequences of dietary deficiency or excess. Part I--Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010 Dec;23(12):1323-43. doi: 10.3109/14767051003678234. Epub 2010 Apr 7.


This two-part review highlights micronutrients for which either public health policy has been established or for which new evidence provides guidance as to recommended intakes during pregnancy. One pivotal micronutrient is folate, the generic name for different forms of a water-soluble vitamin essential for the synthesis of thymidylate and purines and, hence, DNA. For non-pregnant adult women the recommended intake is 400 μg/day dietary folate equivalent. For women capable of becoming pregnant an additional 400 μg/day of synthetic folic acid from supplements or fortified foods is recommended to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD). The average amount of folic acid received through food fortification (grains) in the US is only 128 μg/day, emphasising the need for the supplemental vitamin for women of reproductive age. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a cofactor required for enzyme reactions, including generation of methionine and tetrahydrofolate. B12 is found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin (meats, dairy products); therefore, vegetarians are at greatest risk for dietary vitamin B12 deficiency and should be supplemented. Vitamin B6 is required for many reactions, primarily in amino acid metabolism. Meat, fish and poultry are good dietary sources. Supplementation beyond routine prenatal vitamins is not recommended.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Dairy Products
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Edible Grain
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Folic Acid / physiology
  • Folic Acid / toxicity
  • Folic Acid Deficiency
  • Humans
  • Meat
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Poultry
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin B 12 / physiology
  • Vitamin B 12 / toxicity
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency
  • Vitamin B 6 / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin B 6 / physiology
  • Vitamin B 6 / toxicity
  • Vitamin B 6 Deficiency


  • Vitamin B 6
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12