Vitamin B9 (Folate / Folic Acid)

Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid) - What does it do? Where do I get it? How much do I need? What are the symptoms of deficiency?
vitamin b9 folate folic acid

Why Is Vitamin B9 (Folate) Important For Your Body?

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9, water-soluble and naturally found in many foods. Folate helps to form DNA and RNA and is involved in protein metabolism. It plays a key role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid that can exert harmful effects in the body if it is present in high amounts. Folate is also needed to produce healthy red blood cells and is critical during periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and fetal development.

Where do I find it?

Vitamin B9 is added to food in the form of folic acid. It is also sold as a supplement in the same form. Folic acid is actually better absorbed than folates from food sources.

Many fruits and vegetables are good sources of folate. In the United States, bread, cereal, flour, cornmeal, pasta, rice, and other grain products are fortified with folic acid. As for many other vitamins, liver contains high amounts of vitamin B9. Peas, beans, nuts, and eggs also have good amounts of vitamin B9.

How much do I need?

Healthy adults shouldn’t need more than 400 µg per day. Eating a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as fortified foods will supply your body with adequate vitamin B9 levels. Pregnant women should increase vitamin B9 levels up to 600 µg and keep at least 500 µg while lactating. Those who drink alcohol should also try to keep higher levels of vitamin B9, as alcohol has a negative effect on absorption and expedites the excrement of the vitamin.

It is extremely rare to reach a toxic level when eating folate from food sources. The upper level of intake is 1 mg per day.

What happens if I don’t get enough Vitamin B9?

A folate deficiency is rare because it is found in a wide range of foods. However, some small groups, such as people abusing alcohol, pregnant women, people with digestive disorders and some genetic variants where the body can not convert folate to it’s active form. One sign of deficiency is a reduction of blood cells in the blood, which again can be of larger size than normal. Other symptoms can include weakness, fatigue,  irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath. Some other cases can result in difficulty concentrating, hair loss, pale skin, or mouth sores.

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