Guide To The Benefits Of Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

By:    Published: September 27, 2012

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Many people have heard of the B vitamins, but did you know that there are actually eight different vitamins in this group? One of these is vitamin B9, which is more commonly referred to as folate or folic acid. Vitamin B9 is extremely important for the body, especially for pregnant women. This article will explore the many functions and food sources of folic acid, as well as the recommended dosages for this particular vitamin.

What Does Vitamin B9 Do?

Folic acid is an important vitamin due to its association with the brain. Taking the recommended dosage of vitamin B9 each day encourages proper brain function while also helping to maintain proper mental and emotional health. Additionally, folic acid works with vitamin B12 to regulate production of red blood cells in the body. Vitamins B9, B12 and B6 are also all very crucial when it comes to controlling blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine.

Perhaps what folic acid is most known for, however, is its association with pregnancy. Pregnant women need much more folic acid because it is critical when the body is growing rapidly, specifically during pregnancy and infancy. Because folic acid is so important during this stage of life, pregnant women are often encouraged to take a folic acid supplement.

Like all members of the B vitamins group, folic acid is also very important for metabolizing foods, including carbohydrates, fats and proteins. By breaking down these substances, folic acid helps to produce energy that keeps us focused and active throughout the day. Additionally, the B vitamins are important for maintaining healthy skin and hair.

Food Sources of Vitamin B9

Although vitamin B9 is found in several common foods, it is not as easily found as some of the other B vitamins. Leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and whole grains all contain a significant amount of folic acid naturally. Additionally, milk salmon and avocados are all good sources of this vitamin.

There are also several types of foods that have folic acid added to them. Breads, flours, pastas, cornmeal and white rice are all good sources of folic acid if they are labeled "enriched." In fact, if you look carefully at food labels, you'll find that some enriched breakfast cereals contain 100% of the recommended daily dosage of folic acid in a single serving. When reading a food label, the percent of the daily value for this vitamin is listed under "folate."

Side Effects

When taken in the recommended amounts, side effects associated with vitamin B9 are extremely rare. If a person takes more than the recommended daily amount of folic acid, then they may experience symptoms like skin reactions, seizures, stomach problems or sleep problems.

Individuals taking folic acid supplements should be careful about potential interactions with certain medications. For instance, the antibiotic tetracycline may not be absorbed properly when taken with folic acid. Furthermore, certain birth control medications and cholesterol-lowering medications may reduce folic level acids in the flood, so individuals may actually need to take more folic acid with these medications. In any case, always consult a physician about whether you should alter your folic acid intake based on what medications you are taking.

Deficiency Symptoms

It's actually quite common for people to develop a mild folic acid deficiency. This condition leads to several painful and uncomfortable symptoms, including loss of appetite, shortness of breath, diarrhea, tongue inflammation, irritability and forgetfulness. Over a long period of time, a folic acid deficiency may result in poor growth or gingivitis as well. Individuals with certain diseases, including alcoholism, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease, may be more likely to develop a folic acid deficiency.

Daily Dosage Recommendations

As people grow older, their recommended daily dosage of folic acid increases. From birth to 6 months of age, babies should get about 65 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B9 per day. From 7 to 12 months old, the recommendation increases to 80 mcg per day. From the ages of 1 to 3 years, children should take 150 mcg of vitamin B9 a day; from ages 4 to 8 years, 200 mcg per day; from ages 9 to 13 years, 300 mcg; and from age 14 on, 400 mcg is the recommended dosage.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more folic acid each day in order to support the proper growth of their baby. Generally, pregnant women should take 600 mcg of vitamin B9 daily, while breastfeeding women should take 500 mcg per day. The recommended amount may also be increased for individuals with heart disease. In fact, in some cases, a person with heart disease may be advised to take up to 1,200 mcg each day. However, since too much folic acid has the potential to mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, it's important to consult a physician before increasing your folic acid intake.

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