What is Vitamin B9?
Vitamin B9, also know as Folate or Folic Acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in many foods. Or people can get vitamin B9 as a supplement sold as folic acid or add it to foods. In fact, taking folic acid helps your body absorb more of it than it would from getting it through food. In addition, folate helps metabolize protein as well as form DNA and RNA. Plus, it helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid that could cause damage if high amounts are present in your body. Finally, folate helps produce healthy red blood cells. They are vital during pregnancy and fetal development.
How much vitamin B9 should you take?
Folate’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) states that men and women over age 19 should take 400 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalents). On the other hand, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take 600 mcg DFE and 500 mcg DFE, respectively. Frequent alcohol users should take at least 600 mcg DFE daily since alcohol can impair absorption.
In general, the Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum dose that can be taken without causing negative side effects in the majority of people. The folic acid UL for adults from fortified food and supplements is 1000 mcg daily.
How is vitamin B9 used?
Vitamin B9 has a variety of benefits. In fact, it is oftentimes used to treat the following medical conditions:
- Heart disease
- Dementia and cognitive functions
- Neural tube defects
What foods contain vitamin B9?
As previously stated, certain foods are a great source of vitamin B9. For example, foods that contain vitamin B9 include the following:
- Whole grains
- Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, asparagus)
- Fresh fruits and juices
- Fortified foods and supplements
How do you know if you aren’t getting enough vitamin B9?
Since vitamin B9 is found in most foods, a deficiency is unlikely. Still, some conditions may raise the risk, including:
- Pregnancy. Folate is vital during pregnancy since it helps develop cells of the fetus.
- Alcoholism. Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to absorb folate. Plus, it increases how quickly your body breaks down and excretes folate from the body. Finally, most people with alcoholism have poor diets with few foods that contain vitamin B9.
- Genetic variants. Some people carry a variant of the gene MTHFR. As a result, they cannot activate folate within their body so that their body can use it.
- Digestive disorders and intestinal surgeries. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease lower folate absorption. Additionally, surgeries that lower stomach acid levels or involve digestive organs may lower the absorption of folate.
Further, here are some signs of deficiency:
- Hair loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Mouth sores
- Irregular heartbeat
- Megaloblastic anemia: a condition caused by folate deficiency from poor diet or absorption that produces fewer, but larger red blood cells