Folic acid (Vitamin B9)

Vitamin B9

vitamin B9

Folic acid also referred to as Vitamin B9. It is a water-soluble vitamin. This nutrient is not stored in large amounts in the body so must be obtained through the diet. Folate is the form of this nutrient that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the man-made version – it is typically found in supplements.

Folic acid may be most commonly known for its importance in preventing birth defects, but this B vitamin has plenty of important functions in the body. Like other B vitamins, this nutrient is essential for the metabolism of food into glucose to be used by the body’s cells for energy.

This vitamin is essential for the body in the creation, repair, and maintenance of DNA. Thus, vitamin B9 is necessary for the body to produce new cells and maintain them in a healthy condition. Therefore, during pregnancy, more of this nutrient is needed to support both the mother and the growing fetus. Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects. Vitamin B9 is necessary for fertility both females and males.

B9 is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system, brain and nerve health. This nutrient is important for the prevention of diseases like heart disorders, anemia, depression, osteoporosis, birth defects, certain types of cancer, age-related medical conditions like hearing loss and macular degeneration.

nutshell In a nutshell
nutshell Folic acid is one of the essential nutrients for pregnant and nursing women.
nutshell Vitamin B9 is necessary for fertility both females and males.
nutshell Vitamin B9 is required to produce healthy red and white blood cells and prevent anemia.
nutshell Shortage of B9 can lead to depression.
nutshell Due to the importance of folic acid for the human organism, plenty of foods are fortified with this nutrient.

Vitamin B9 deficiency


Because so many foods are fortified with folic acid, it is rare to develop a deficiency in this vitamin. However, very restrictive diets, drug or alcohol use, certain medical conditions, and use of certain medications can lead to a deficiency in this nutrient. People with a BMI greater than 50 are more likely to develop folate deficiency.

Vitamin B9 deficiency can cause a large variety of symptoms. In the earliest stages, symptoms may not be visible but will most likely affect rapidly dividing cells, such as red blood cells, resulting in anemia.

Symptoms of deficiency may include:
• Pregnancy complications;
• Anemia;
• Headaches;
• Mental fatigue;
• Depression;
• Irritability;
• Difficulty sleeping;
• Confusion;
• Behavioral disorders;
• Development of gum disease;
• Glossitis;
• Diarrhea.

Vitamin B9 overdose


Side effects or overdose from folate found in natural sources is unlikely. When
taken in recommended dosages, there is also a little risk for side effects- an excessive quantity of water-soluble vitamins is removed with urine. However, the tolerable upper intake level has been set at 300 micrograms per day for very young children to up to 1,000 micrograms per day for healthy adults. Taking high levels or moderate to high levels of B9 in supplement form for a long period of time increases the risk of side effects.

Side effects from too much of this nutrient in supplement form include cramping, gastrointestinal disturbances, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, and many of the same symptoms that occur with a deficiency in this nutrient. Long term exposure to high dose supplements can also increase the risk of heart attack and certain types of cancer.

Daily Recommended Intake and sources of B9


While fortified breads and cereals are full of this nutrient, folate can be found naturally in other food sources. Some of the foods that contain this nutrient include beans and lentils, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, orange juice from concentrate, and rice.

The daily recommended allowance for this nutrient is measured by adequate
intake, abbreviated as AI. These are also equivalent to micrograms (µg) per day. The daily AI for folate in both natural and supplement forms vary per age:
• Infants should take 65 – 80 µg;
• Children 1 to 8 should get 150 – 200 µg;
• Children 9 to 18 need 300 – 400 µg;
• Adults 19 and over should aim for 400 µg per day;
• Pregnant women should get 600 µg;
• Nursing mothers need 500 µg.

The following foods have high amounts of folate:
• Turkey liver (cooked) (100g) -691 µg;
• Chicken liver (cooked) (100g) -578 µg;
• Lentils (100g) – 479 µg;
• Beans (100g) – 390 µg;
• Chicken (cooked) (100g) -257µg; ;
• Beef (cooked) (100g) -253µg;
• Peanuts (100g) -240 µg;
• Spinach (100g) -194 µg;
• Turnip (100g) -194 µg;
• Kale (100g) – 141 µg;

Other important sources of B9:
• Broccoli, grape leaves, cabbages, corn, pumpkin;
• Chicken heart, bacon;
• Whole-wheat bread;
• Fish;
• Eggs;
• Cheese;
• Spices.

B9 was isolated from spinach


Folic acid. Studies in the 1920s regarding anemia led researchers to believe that folate deficiency and anemia were the same. In 1931, folate was identified as the nutrient needed to prevent anemia during pregnancy. In the 1940s, this vitamin was isolated from spinach and identified.

The vitamin as named folate (folic acid) from the Latin word “folium” which means “leaf” since it was found in green, leafy vegetables. Once it was determined that this nutrient is one of the B group of vitamins, it also became known as Vitamin B9 since it was the 9th B vitamin to be identified.