What is Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid)? Functions, Benefits, Deficiency, Dosages

Vitamin B9, also known as 'folate or folic acid' is one of the 8 B-vitamins. It helps make DNA and other genetic material. B9 is essential for prenatal health. It also supports healthy cell division and promotes the fetus's normal growth and development to reduce the risk of congenital disabilities.

What is Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid)? Functions, Benefits, Deficiency, Dosages

Vitamin B9, also known as ‘folate or folic acid’ is one of the 8 B-vitamins. It helps make DNA and other genetic material. B9 is essential for prenatal health.

It also supports healthy cell division and promotes the fetus’s normal growth and development to reduce the risk of congenital disabilities.

Vitamin B9 is a water-soluble vitamin essential to your health. It dissolves in two forms:

  • Folate: The natural form of vitamin B9 is found in leafy green vegetables and plant sources.
  • Folic acid: The stable synthetic form of vitamin B9 found in supplements, fortified foods, and pharmaceuticals.

This article discusses the function of vitamin B9 in the body, food sources, recommended intake, and the effects of deficiency.

What Is The Role of Vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 plays an essential role in your body:

  • Help make and repair your DNA
  • Produce red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body
  • Develop neural tube in the baby’s brain and spinal cord
  • Folic acid can reduce the risk of preterm birth
  • Folate is vital for many functions of the body

Potential Health Benefits of Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 (folate/folic acid) provides the following health benefits:

1. Healthy Red Blood Cells Production

Your body regularly produces new red blood cells through a process called erythropoiesis.

In the infant stage of red blood cells, folate is necessary for cell differentiation because stem cells are transformed into more specialized cells. It works closely with iron and vitamin B12 to maintain red blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen to the cells.

2. Vitamin B9 Plays A Role In DNA Synthesis

The folate coenzyme is the key to the synthesis of DNA and RNA from its precursor. The active form of vitamin B9 helps cells perform important methylation reactions and maintain healthy cell function.

Vitamin B9 is a cofactor for cell division and helps the formation and maintenance of healthy cells. Therefore, vitamin B9 (folic acid) is crucial for children and pregnant women.

3. Prevent Irregular Fetal Neural Tube Development

It is shown that folic acid supplements can prevent neural tube defects in fetuses during and before pregnancy. It can also decline the risk of premature birth, heart disease, and cleft palate.

The Office-of-Dietary-Supplements stated that all women who might become pregnant soon should get 400 mcg/day of ‘folic acid’ from fortified food or supplements. 

4. Adjunctive Treatment for Mental Health Disorders

It has been shown that the folic acid level of depressed patients is lower in the blood than of healthy patients. Studies have shown that folate and folic acid supplements can reduce symptoms of depression when used with antidepressants.

5. Folate Can Mitigate The Risk of Autism in Children

Some studies have shown that taking folic acid before and early in pregnancy may reduce the chance of autism in kids, even for high-risk families. According to previous studies, folate (taken as folic acid) can significantly reduce the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.

6. Folic Acid Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Doctors can use folic acid to support the prescription of methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate is an effective drug to treat this disease, but it can remove folate from the body and cause gastrointestinal symptoms. The supplementation of folic acid can reduce rheumatoid arthritis side effects by 79%.

7. Folic Acid Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease

Folic acid can help protect the heart in many ways. Studies have expressed that getting enough folic acid from the diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 20%.

Vitamin B9 also works with vitamins B6 and vitamin 12 to control homocysteine ​​levels in the body. High homocysteine ​​is often associated with heart disease.

8. Folate May Delay or Reduce Age-Related Hearing Loss

The study strengthens the link between hearing and B vitamins. A study showed that folic acid supplements help slow down age-related hearing loss in older adults with high homocysteine ​​and low folate levels in their diet.

Audiologists found that people with low folic acid levels were significantly more at risk of developing high-frequency hearing loss.

9. Vitamin B9 Slow Down Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

High intake of folate is associated with a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

A study found that women who took 2,500 mcg/day of folic acid, 1,000 mcg/day of vitamin B12, and 500 mcg/day of vitamin B6 reduced their risk of eye diseases that can cause vision loss.

10. Vitamin B9 Decreased the Risk of Certain Types of Cancers

Adequate folic acid in the diet can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including colon cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, and stomach cancer. A study showed that folic acid supplementation could reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) by 50%.

11. Folate Improve The Memory & Thinking Ability In Older

According to a recent study, low folate intake is linked to an increased risk of dementia in later life. The memory and thinking ability of the elderly decrease due to folate deficiency.

Folic acid, taken alone or in conjunction with other supplements, may improve older people’s memory and thinking abilities with this condition.

12. Adequate Folate Promote Brain Health

Studies explained that low folate levels in the blood had been linked to poor brain function and dementia risk. Even low folate levels can increase the risk of mental decline in the elderly. 

Research has proven that folic acid supplements can improve the brain function of people with intellectual disabilities and help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Other Potential Health Benefits

Supplementing folic acid also has the following benefits:

·        High Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that taking folic acid daily for at least 6 weeks can lower blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure. However, folic acid and antihypertensive drugs don’t seem to lower blood pressure better than antihypertensive drugs alone.

·        Diabetes: Folate-based supplementation helps to improve blood sugar control, reduces insulin resistance, and improves the cardiovascular function of diabetic patients. These supplements can also help reduce diabetes complications, including neuropathy.

·        Fertility: Women receiving assisted reproductive technology are more likely to have live births when they consume more folate (over 800 mcg/day). ‎Sufficient folate is also essential for egg (oocyte) quality, implantation, and maturity.

·        Inflammation: Studies have shown that folic acid supplements reduce inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein and polycystic ovary syndrome in women and epilepsy in children.

·        Medication Side Effects: Supplements containing folate can help reduce the incidence of side effects of using certain drugs, including methotrexate, an immunosuppressive drug used to treat psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain types of cancer.

·        Kidney Failure: Approximately 85% of patients with kidney failure have higher homocysteine ​​levels. High levels of homocysteine ​​are linked to heart disease and stroke. Folic acid supplementation helps reduce homocysteine ​​levels and the risk of heart disease in this population.

Who Should Take Folic Acid Supplements?

The majority of Americans get enough folate from their diet, and folate deficiency is rare in the United States.

The Women’s Health Office recommends that the following should take folic acid:

1. Women who might ”get pregnant or pregnant women” should take 400 to 800 mcg/day folic acid.

2. Breastfeeding women should take around 500 mcg/day of folic acid.

3. A family history of spinal Bifida or neural tube abnormalities can necessitate 4,000 mcg a day.

The Recommended Intake of Vitamin B9: 

The Office-of-Dietary-Supplements recommends that people obtain the following dietary folate equivalents from food or vitamin sources:

Age Recommended dose

  • 0 – 6 months 65 mcg
  • 7 – 12 months 80 mcg
  • 1- 3 years 150 mcg
  • 4 – 8 years 200 mcg
  • 9 – 13 years 300 mcg
  • 14 -18 years 400 mcg
  • Over 19 years 400 mcg

Rich Food Sources of Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 can be found in supplements and fortified foods, including flour, bread, cereals, and grains. It is also a popular supplement of B complex vitamins.

Many foods are naturally rich in folate. The best sources include:

  • Beef liver
  • Dungeness crab
  • Boiled spinach
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Mustard greens
  • Green peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Orange juice
  • Canned tomato juice
  • Dry roasted peanuts
  • Fresh oranges, grapefruits
  • Papaya
  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Boiled eggs

What is Vitamin B9 Deficiency?

When folate level is low in the body, its deficiency can occur. Folate deficiency causes ‘megaloblastic anemia.’

During the time of pregnancy, folate deficiency increases the risk of congenital disabilities.

Some symptoms of folate deficiency include:

  • Weaknesses, fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headache, irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sores in the tongue and mouth
  • Changes in skin, hair, or nail color

Who Is At Risk of Folate Deficiency?

  • Pregnant women
  • People of childbearing age
  • People with alcohol use disorder
  • People suffering from nutrient absorption issue 
  • People with MTHFR polymorphism

What Are The Side Effects of Folic Acid?

There are no severe side effects associated with excessive folic acid intake. In rare cases, people may report an upset stomach.

If a person takes too much folic acid, there is no need to worry. Folic acid is water-soluble, so any excess folic acid will naturally pass through the urine.

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid or Folate) – Takeaway

Vitamin B9 is a crucial vitamin that plays a significant role in DNA synthesis and red blood cell production. Folate deficiency can cause shortness of breath, irritability, fatigue, and weakness that stop you perform even simple daily tasks.

The nutritional requirements of folate can be met through common food sources. If your body cannot absorb folate from your diet or your dietary needs are high, see your doctor and consider folic acid supplements.

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