Naturally occurring in food as folate, Vitamin B9 is a water-soluble nutrient that is vital for several body functions. The synthetic form of vitamin B9 is folic acid, which is commonly sold as a supplement or added to foods. Read on for everything about this B vitamin.
Vitamin B9 Sources And Functions And Importance
Vitamin B9 (folate) is essential for important body functions including cell growth, protein metabolism, RNA and DNA formation and brain function. It also helps to break down the amino acid, homocysteine, which is present in the body because in high amounts, homocysteine can have harmful effects.
Vitamin B9 is also required for the formation of red blood cells and is extremely important when the body is going through rapid growth i.e., during pregnancy for fetal development, during infancy and adolescence.
Low vitamin B9 levels are associated with common health risks such as poor growth, loss of appetite, gingivitis, tongue inflammation, diarrhea, forgetfulness, irritability, mental sluggishness, elevated levels of homocysteine, which in turn, increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and increased risk of cancer.
Pregnant women require adequate amounts of folic acid, a lack of which can increase the risk of birth defects like neural tube defects, cleft palate, brain damage and spina bifida. Vitamin B deficiency can cause symptoms such as weakness, tiredness, shortness of breath, irritability, heart palpitations, difficulty concentrating and headaches.
Folate Vs Folic Acid
Folate is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 that is found in several foods such as leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beef liver, eggs, etc.
Folate is not made by the body and must be got from your diet.
On the other hand, folic acid is the synthetic, man-made form of vitamin B9 and is mainly got via dietary supplements and fortified foods such as bread, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and flour.
While often folic acid and folate are used interchangeably, these are distinct in terms of their structural forms, as well as their biological effects on the body.
What Are The Best Sources Of Vitamin B9?
The best sources of vitamin B9 are typically foods including dark leafy green veggies such as lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, avocados, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, turnips, beets, soybeans, lima beans, white beans, kidney beans, mung beans, root veggies, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, whole grains, bulgur wheat, salmon, beef liver, orange juice and milk.
However, an easier and more effective way to ensure that you get sufficient vitamin B9 is by taking supplements, especially for pregnant women. The most common supplemental form of vitamin B9 is folic acid, which is easily available in any medical store.
You can take supplements containing levomefolate or 5-MTHF, which is a good alternative to folic acid and is available in the form of levomefolate magnesium or levomefolate calcium and is commonly available under the brand names such as Deplin, Metafolin and Enlyte.
How To Take Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9 is found in many multivitamins in the form of B-complex vitamins and is also sold separately. It is better to take folic acid along with or as a part of a multivitamin because it requires other B vitamins for the folic acid to work effectively.
It is available in several forms such as soft gels, tablets, lozenges and drops. You can also find grains and cereal products that are fortified with folic acid.
Typically, you can get sufficient folic acid from your diet, except if you’re pregnant. And, the daily recommendations for Vitamin B9 (folic acid) are:
- Women and Men (19+ years): 400 mcg
- Pregnant Women: 600 mcg
- Breastfeeding Mothers: 500 mcg
- Teens (14-18 years): 400 mcg
- 1-3 years: 150 mcg
- 4-8 years: 200 mcg
- 9-13 years: 300 mcg
- 0-6 months: 66 mcg
- 7-12 months: 80 mcg
Vitamin B9 Side Effects
Side effects from the intake of vitamin B9 (folic acid) are very rare when taken in the recommended dosages. However, very high doses of the vitamin can cause side effects like:
- Stomach problems
- Skin reactions
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
The maximum limit for folic acid is 1,000 mcg and taking folic acid in more than the recommended doses can hide any vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms and may even end up damaging your nervous system.
Further, taking the vitamin for a very long time may cause the other B vitamins to get out of balance. And so, it is best to take a B-complex vitamin, which has all the B vitamins required by the body.
Vitamin B9 Interactions
While vitamin B9 (folate) does not interact with any over the counter (OTC) or prescribed medications; however, certain drugs may affect the way folate is metabolized by the body, lower the folic acid levels and interfere with the capability of the body to absorb the vitamin B9 such as:
- Antibiotics: Tetracycline, cycloserine, trimethoprim, etc.
- Birth control pills
- Pyrimethamine (Daraprim)
- Metformin, which is used to regulate blood sugar
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs): Naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Dyrenium (triamterene), used to control high blood pressure and fluid retention
- H2 Blockers: Ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid) and cimetidine (Tagamet)
- Proton Inhibitors: Omeprazole (Prilosec), iansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (Aciphex) and someprazole (Nexium)
- Pyrimethamine (Daraprim), used to treat toxoplasmosis and malaria
- Anticonvulsants: Tegretol (carbamazepine), Dilantin (phenytoin), phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline) or valproic acid
- Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and ulcerative colitis
- Bile Acid Sequestrants: Cholestyramine (Questran), colesevelam (Welchol) and colestipol (Colestid)
- Chemotherapy medications
- Methotrexate used to treat autoimmune diseases and cancers
Vitamin B9 Sources And Functions: Conclusion
In conclusion, vitamin B9 is a water-soluble vitamin that is vital for health. The body does not store vitamin B9 and so just in a few weeks, you can become deficient, leading to an increased risk of heart disease, anemia and other issues. Vitamin B9 is also vital during the early stages of pregnancy as it is important for the development and growth of the baby.
And, if you experience any symptoms of vitamin deficiency that we have discussed earlier, it is recommended that you get tested and if you’re deficient then ensure you include folate-rich foods in your diet or take a folic acid supplement.