Folic Acid – Vitamin B9

What is Vitamin B9?

So just what is vitamin B9, and why is it so important to health?

The B vitamins are a group of water soluble vitamins that play essential roles in the metabolism of cells.

It was once thought that there was just one vitamin in this group – referred to as vitamin B – Later studies have shown that the B vitamins are chemically distinct, though they often coexist in the same foods.

Vitamin B9 Function

The Vitamin B9 is commonly referred to as Folic acid, folacin or folate, and it is needed for a strong immune system and is involved in the production of energy. Folic acid is actually a synthetic form of Folate and it is used to fortify foods, as such it tends to have a greater activity and 0.6 µg is equitant to 1 µg of natural folate.

It is essential to the health of every single cell in the body, including red and white blood cells, cells that line the small intestine, and skin cells. Folic acid helps in the formation of DNA and RNA in the genes, which are needed in the regulation of red blood cells, skin cells, cell formation, and the cells that line in the small intestine.

Folate Discovery

A substance was extracted from spinach leaves in 1941 and was termed as “folic acid” from the Latin word “folium” that means leaf, and was found to cure anemia effectively.

Folate or Folic acid is used by the body for the production of red blood cells. Such complex vitamins are needed to correctly metabolize fats and proteins and aids in maintaining the hair, skin, digestive tract, muscles, nervous system, and other tissues in the body.

Folic Acid During Pregnancy

Folic Acid also assists in the production of DNA and RNA, especially during rapid growth periods such as during pregnancy, infancy and adolescence. Pregnancy can cause an extremely high risk of deficiency in folic acid. The mother’s supply of folic acid is rapidly being used by the fetus, which is why there should be enough supply of folic acid during this period. Lack of folic acid supply to the fetus can cause various health problems; these include neural tube birth defects in babies.

Homocysteine Levels

Vitamin B9 also aids in controlling blood levels of homocysteine; having high levels of this in the blood can give rise to heart disease as well as to other health disorders. Folic acid and other B vitamins work with the body’s enzymes in order to lower homocysteine levels. However, among the different B vitamins, folic acid is apparently the most needed when it comes to the supplementation aids and lowering the levels of homocysteine. Peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease, and other diseases have been linked to lack of folic acid in those with regular levels of homocysteine, as folic acid causes preventive effects aside from regulating the levels of homocysteine.

Vitamin B9 Benefits

Recent studies have shown that vitamin B9 is used to treat patients with the following conditions:

  1. Birth defects prevention
  2. Gingivitis
  3. Depression
  4. Schizophrenia
  5. Pregnancy and postpartum support
  6. Folic acid deficiency
  7. High levels of homocysteine

Folic Acid Deficiency

Vitamin B9 is typically found in various plants; list of folic acid foods. However, most people do not eat enough of such plants in order to get the right amount of folic acid that will potentially lead to deficiency of this mineral. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, alcoholism, or celiac disease are at high risk of folic acid deficiency, which can soon result to several health problems. Aside from that, people with liver disease, suffering from malabsorbtion disorders and those taking birth control often have folic acid deficiency. Such insufficiency was found out to be common in elderly people who are experiencing hearing loss. The function of Vitamin B9 can be interfered by taking in prescription drugs such as anticonvulsants, antacids, anticancer drugs, triamterene, cimetidine, and sulfasalazine.

Recommended Folic Acid Dosage

The FDA suggests that pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant should have a daily intake of around 400 µg of folic acid (600 µg of natural folate) in order to reduce the risk of having birth defects. Individuals who regularly eat grain are recommended to take only 100 mcg of supplementation daily.

Foods High in Folic Acid

Some of the foods that are highly rich in vitamin B9/Folate/Folic Acid include:

  1. Yeast Extract Spread. This is common in British and Australian cultures, and is rich in vitamin B9 as well as in other B vitamins such as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12. It can provide 253% RDA per 100 gram serving.
  2. Dried Herbs. These are packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium. Dried spearmint can provide folate with 133% RDA per 100 gram serving, dried rosemary 77% RDA per 100 gram serving, followed by chervil, dried basil, coriander, marjoram, bay leaf, thyme, and dried parsley.
  3. Liver. This can be prepared fried or steamed with onions and herbs, and this is highly rich in vitamin B9. Turkey liver provides the most folate with 173% of the RDA per 100 gram serving.
  4. Dark Leafy Veggies (Collards, Turnip Greens, Spinach). While such plants are rich in calcium and vitamin K, these are also known to have high contents of vitamin B9. Dark leafy greens are known to be superfoods due to their high content of essential vitamins and minerals.

 Find out more about folic acid rich foods.

 Folic Acid References and Further Reading

LPI; Wikipedia; Ohio State University; Harvard; Baylor.