Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Facts about Vitamin B9 (Folate)

The water-soluble Vitamin B9, Folate or Folic Acid, was formerly known as Vitamin M. Folate occurs naturally in foods and can be synthesized by our body. However, Folate has a lower bioavailability than Folic Acid which is used in food fortification and supplements. Folic Acid needs Vitamin B3 and Vitamin C for its activation.

Vitamin B9 is essential for protein metabolism and the formation of red blood cells. It also stimulates platelet production. Vitamin B9 is required in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis and is as such essential for cell growth and reproduction. Vitamin B9 works closely with Vitamin B2, B6, and B12.

Benefits of Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Vitamin B9 appears to be another anti-stress Vitamin that also improves our mood.

Vitamin B9 is important for the prevention of neural tube defects and for a healthy nervous system. It also maintains healthy homocysteine levels.

Possible uses include:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • anaemia
  • atherosclerosis
  • burns
  • cancer prevention
  • depression
  • dermatitis
  • diarrhoea
  • down syndrome
  • epilepsy
  • fractures
  • gout
  • migraine headaches
  • neural tube defect prevention
  • osteoarthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • psoriasis
  • restless legs syndrome
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • schizophrenia

Vitamin B9 (Folate) Deficiency

Despite food fortification, Vitamin B9 deficiencies are common. Higher intakes are required during periods of growth and are especially important for foetal growth. As a precaution, it is recommended for women of childbearing age to increase their Folate intake.

Alcohol and tobacco, digestive tract disorders, as well as various medications, including oral contraceptives, reduce Vitamin B9 absorption and increase the risk of a deficiency. A Vitamin B9 deficiency can also be mistaken for a Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Deficiency symptoms include:

  • abnormal bleeding
  • anaemia
  • atherosclerosis
  • birth defects
  • blood disorders
  • depression
  • diarrhoea
  • fatigue
  • forgetfulness
  • hair loss
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • mental confusion
  • nausea
  • poor growth
  • reduced immune response
  • weakness

Vitamin B9 (Folate) Toxicity

Folate is not considered to be toxic and even high doses of Folic Acid are considered to be safe and non-toxic. However, high intakes of Folic Acid can make it difficult to detect a Vitamin B12 deficiency because Folic Acid also reduces Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms but without correcting the neurological damage that also occurs. This is why most Folic Acid products also contain Vitamin B12.

Adverse Effects may include:

  • fever
  • itching
  • mental changes
  • shortness of breath
  • skin rash
  • sleep disturbances
  • wheezing

Foods high in Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Because Folate is heat and light sensitive, fruits and vegetables should not be stored at room temperature for long periods of time. Handling and processing of foods can also reduce its Folate content.

Dietary sources include:

  • asparagus
  • beans
  • brewer's yeast
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cantaloupe
  • cauliflower
  • green leafy vegetables
  • egg yolk
  • kidney
  • lentils
  • liver
  • mushrooms
  • orange juice
  • organ meats
  • potatoes
  • soybeans
  • wheat germ
  • whole-grain cereals

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Vitamin B9, developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, currently state 400mcg for adult men and women. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for Vitamin B9 is 1,000mcg. Australia and New Zealand adapted the same values as their Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs).

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