Vitamin B9 Benefits, Dietary Sources, Daily Allowances & Side Effects
Vitamin B9 (aka: folate, folic-acid) is a water-soluble B vitamin with many rich natural sources. Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in several animal foods and plants. While folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin and is found in fortified foods and supplements. Vitamin B9 is required for numerous body functions including DNA synthesis and repair, cell division, and cell growth. Here we review Vitamin B9 benefits, importance of Vitamin B9 along with its side effects.
Health Benefits Of vitamin B9 (aka: folate, folic-acid)
1. Prevents Stroke
Folic acid helps in controlling the amount of homocysteine in the body and reduces the chances of a stroke. Apart from causing heart attacks, homocysteine is responsible for causing strokes, which are deadly events in the brain. Moreover, a large amount of homocysteine in the body may also lead to the weakening of bones, thus increasing the probability of frequent fractures.
2. Prevents Premature Aging
It is not uncommon for the skin to sag as we get old. However, research reveals that people who regularly consume folic acid can delay the onset of aging signs such as wrinkles. Vitamin B9 supplementation also delays aging by preventing the production of stress hormones in the human body.
Moreover, Vitamin B9 also boosts the metabolism and promotes efficient absorption of nutrients. Thus, people who want to stay young forever must include good sources of folate in their diet or use a folic acid supplement.
3. Fights Depression
Folate acts as a natural antidepressant. Whenever you feel depressed, it means that your blood folate levels are low. Folate plays an active role in the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin. When these two neurotransmitters are not balanced, the result is the development of anxiety and depression disorders. Folic acid stimulates serotonergic receptors in your brain to enhance the responsivity of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, SSRI, in patients who are depressed. By supplementing with folic acid, symptoms of depression have been shown to reduce in less than 60 days according to research.
It has also been shown that those with eating disorders, when supplemented with folic acid, showed significant improvements in their symptoms of depression. For many years, folic acid has been shown to have a similar effect to antidepressants. Hot flashes in post-menopausal women have been shown to occur thanks to disturbances in their thermoregulatory system and estrogen deficiency. By supplementing with folic acid, estrogen levels have been shown to rise, which has reversed depression.
4. Hair Growth
Folic acid plays an important role in hair growth. It renews the cells that aid the growth of hair. Folic acid deficiency can lead to premature graying and hair loss.
5. Provides Neurological Support
Research suggests there may be a link between folate levels and neural health. A Korean study of elderly patients found that those suffering from dementia had the highest levels of homocysteine and the lowest folate levels. Patients in the control group who did not suffer from dementia had higher folate levels.
6. Combats Free Radicals
Folic acid works like an antioxidant to destroy free radicals in the body. In addition to vitamin C and vitamin E, this vitamin is essential to get rid of free radicals which are actually byproducts of oxygen metabolism and lead to toxicity. We all know how this damage can negatively affect the central nervous system and lead to complications such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Moreover, this activity also results in many types of inflammatory diseases as well as diabetes and hair loss. When you regularly consume folic acid, the body successfully flushes out toxins from the body and keeps you safe from more than 20 diseases which are associated with free radicals in the body.
7. Preventing Cervix and Colon Cancer in Women
According to studies, vitamin B9 can improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, and women who have high levels of vitamin B9 are 60% less susceptible to colon cancer. However, men’s risk of contracting colon cancer remains the same despite increased intake of vitamin B9, and researchers have yet to find out the reason for this.
8. Increases Hemoglobin Level
Folic acid is responsible for improving the level of hemoglobin in the human body. Hemoglobin is an essential component that helps in the transfer of oxygen to cells and organ systems that need it to function properly. This can boost energy levels and increase metabolic efficiency.
Important Sources Of Folic Acid
In order to make your diet rich in vitamin B9 or folic acid, you should include food items like liver and kidney. Other great sources of this vitamin are green vegetables, cheese, and mushrooms. Beans, legumes, brewer’s yeast, and cauliflower are some rich sources of folic acid. Oranges, bananas, peas, brown rice, and lentils can also be included under this list.
Recommended Daily Allowances
0 – 6 months: 65 mcg
7 – 12 months: 80 mcg
1 – 3 years: 150 mcg
4 – 8 years: 200 mcg
9 – 13 years: 300 mcg
Teens, 14 – 18 years: 400 mcg
19 years and older, men and women: 400 mcg
Pregnant women: 600 mcg
Breastfeeding women: 500 mcg
For heart disease, the amounts used might be relatively high – between 400 and 1200 mcg.
However, you need to take high levels of folic acid supplementation under the supervision of a doctor. While the above is the recommended daily dosages, you need to consult your doctor for the right dosage.
Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B9 deficiency include:
Anemia (macrocytic or megaloblastic)
Cracking and redness of tongue and mouth
Low birth weight and preterm delivery in pregnancy
Neural tube defects in newborns
However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.
Folic acid has few side effects, even when taken in high amounts. Although the folic acid itself is not a problem, supplemental folic acid can mask symptoms of pernicious anemia, a potentially fatal disease which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12. Very high doses (above 15,000 mcg) can cause stomach problems, sleep disturbances, skin reactions, and seizures.
You should always take supplements under the supervision of a health care provider, especially if you have a chronic disease or you are taking medication. When you take the recommended dose, side effects are minimal.
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