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Folate deficiency (hypovitaminosis B9) is the most common vitamin deficiency in the Western world. It is especially important in pregnant women and common amongst alcoholics.
Deficiency arises in two distinct populations:
- increased demand (pregnancy and lactation)
- decreased absorption (alcoholism and chronic small bowel pathology)
Earlier in embryogenesis, formation of the neural tube is dependent on adequate levels of folate. Deficiency in this critical time is a well-known cause of neural tube defects and as such there may be a need for pregnant women (and women planning to conceive) to take folate supplementation.