Vitamin B9 (folic acid) benefits, food sources, deficiency, and overdose.

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Benefits, Function, Sources, Requirements, Deficiency, Overdose

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Benefits

Vitamin B9 is also called folic acid. It is one of the water-soluble B vitamins. It is critical for normal function, growth, and development of cells, as well as for the production of genetic material. Vitamin B9 is integral to the process of converting food into energy. This nutrient has many health benefits. Some of folic acid’s most important benefits are:

  • Help create blood cells.
  • Aids in the removal of homocysteine, a toxin, from the blood. This safeguards the health of the heart.
  • Contributes to normal cognitive and emotional healthy and development.
  • Helps fetuses to grown and develop normally. It has been shown to reduce the risk of some birth defects.
  • Needs to convert food into energy that can be used by the body. Also helps to maintain healthy digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Is needed for healthy liver function.
  • Acts to allow the body to properly use iron.

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Functions

Folate and folic acid are the two types of vitamin B9. Folic acid is an artificial type of B9. It is widely used for enriching certain food products, as well as in supplements. Folate is the natural type of vitamin B9 that is found in food. Both folate and folic acid are water-soluble B vitamins.

Our bodies absorb nearly all of the folic acid we ingest. Folate, on the other hand, is much more difficult for our bodies to absorb. It must first be altered by enzymes. Because of this, only a fraction of vitamin B9, in the form of folate, is absorbed by the body.

Vitamin B9 is a crucial component for all the body processes which contribute to the health and normal development of genetic material and body cells. This nutrient is critical for all stages of growth.

Vitamin supplements generally contain folic acid. However, but supplements that contain folate. Prenatal supplements often contain this type of vitamin B9.

Green and black teas and extracts lower the availability of vitamin B9 in the body, so these should not be taken immediately before or after taking a supplement containing folic acid or folate.

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Food Sources

The nutritional qualities of folic acid can be reduced by being exposed to heat and oxygen. Foods that contain vitamin B9 should be stored in sealed containers to maintain the quality of the vitamin. Also, foods that are overcooked can lose some of the vitamin’s potency.

There are a wide variety of food sources of folate. Plants sources are particularly rich sources. Make sure that you are getting enough vitamin B9 each day by consuming a variety of the following foods that are high vitamin B9.

Vegetable Sources

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Cabbage
  • Avocados
  • Brussels sprouts

Fruit Sources

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bananas

Legume Sources

  • Lentils
  • Pinto Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Green Peas
  • Soybeans

Enriched Grain Sources

  • Enriched Breads
  • Fortified Cereals

Meat Sources

  • Liver
  • Turkey
  • Chicken

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Daily Requirement

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin B9 (folic acid) is:

65 micrograms/day for infants from 0-6 months old.
80 micrograms/day for infants from 7-12 months old.
150 micrograms/day for children from 1-3 years old.
200 micrograms/day for children from 4-8 years old.
300 micrograms/day for children from 9-13 years old.
400 micrograms/day for males and females over the age of 13.

During pregnancy, the RDA is raised to 600 micrograms/day. While breastfeeding the RDA is raised to 500 micrograms/day.

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Deficiency

A deficiency of folic acid is one of the more common vitamin deficiencies. It often occurs in those who regularly consume too much alcohol, pregnant women, and people who have problems absorbing nutrients. Problems absorbing nutrients can often happen in people who suffer from bowel diseases, such as colitis and Crohn’s disease.

A vitamin B9 deficiency can also happen if one is taking particular medications, including some medications which lower cholesterol.

The signs of a B9 deficiency are often subtle and are often not recognized. Sometimes, a deficiency can occur for long periods of time with no noticeable symptoms.

The main signs that one has a deficiency of vitamin B9, or folic acid, include:

  • Anemia
  • Mood disorders, including depression
  • Inadequate growth
  • Glossitis
  • Digestive problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Problems breathing
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cervical dysplasia

Having a deficiency of B9 while pregnant can lead to birth defects and premature delivery. A deficiency is strongly connected to Neural tube defects. These include birth defects such as cleft palate and spina bifida. Neural tube defects occur in almost 4,000 pregnancies in the US every year. The Center for Disease Control has stated that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, during pregnancy, could reduce the rate of birth defects by almost 70%.

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid – Overdose

Because vitamin B9 is water-soluble, toxicity resulting from ingesting large amounts is rare. Excessive quantities of water-soluble vitamins are easily flushed from the body. However, there is no benefit to taking quantities over 1,000 micrograms per day, so doses larger than that should be avoided. Mega-doses of folic acid which are higher than 15,000 micrograms have been reported to result in digestive issues, inability to sleep, various skin reactions, and even seizures. Also excessive dosages of B9 have been connected to a higher risk of seizure in those who suffer from epilepsy.

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