Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is the next Vitamin among the B complex family.
Vitamins are undoubtedly having a great contribution to personal body functioning. The 2 subtypes as per solubility whether they are soluble in fats or water are water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. The vitamins series on Loaded Health already covered Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 & Vitamin B7. The next to be discussed is Vitamin B9.
Let’s start the discussion on Folic acid – Vitamin B9, its mechanism, sources, benefits, deficiency, diseases, and side effects.
What Folic Acid Is?
Folic acid is Vitamin B9 and stands 7th in the list of B complex vitamins. It is also known as Folate, methylfolate, and l-methylfolate.
What Folic Acid Is Good For?
Folic acid or folate assists essential functions in the human body like the role in cell growth and genetic material DNA.
On the other hand, low levels are linked with the following:
- Increased homocysteine in blood – If the homocysteine levels are high there will be an increased risk of stroke and heart attack
- Increased cancer risk – Inadequate levels of folate linked to high cancer risk
- Birth defects – If the B9 levels are low in pregnant women, developing babies may develop with birth defects.
So, taking folate must be enough to decrease the homocysteine levels in the blood and prevent birth defects as well as cellular growth.
Folic Acid Vs Folate
Folate is the natural form of Vitamin B9. Folate originates from “folium,” meaning leaf. So, leafy vegetables are the best dietary source of folate.
The chemically active name of folate is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) or levomefolic acid. Folate is converted to this active form from the digestive system before it enters the blood.
Folic acid, also called pteroylmonoglutamic acid, is a manufactured form of vitamin B9. The available supplements in the market and the processed food are having it like breakfast cereals.
Folic acid is converted into the active form 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) or levomefolicacid by the liver and other tissues and not from the gut. But not all of the folic acid is being able to be converted to the active form.
The main concern will be a high level of unmetabolized folic acid that can deposit in the body and cause serious issues.
However, studies have shown that taking the B complex together will make the absorption and conversion better and more efficient.
Sources of B9
- Beef liver
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Green leafy vegetables
- Black-eye beans
- Kidney beans
- Enriched bread
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Functions & Benefits
- Formation of DNA and other genetic material
- The body needs folate for cell division
- Vital for new cell creation
- Break down, and utilization of proteins
- Create new proteins
- Formation of red blood cells (helps prevent anemia)
- Prevent brain and spine birth defects during pregnancy
- Reduce the risk of colon cancer
- Lower the levels of homocysteine
- Reduce risk for heart diseases
Recommended Daily Allowance
Harvard Health Publishing, recommended a daily dose B9 is as follows:
An average adult man and woman requires 400 mcg (micrograms) per day. It can be used in a variety of ways, so your doctor can prescribe the proper dosage for you. In-depth dietary folate equivalents (DFEs) includes:
- Newborn to 6 months age: 65mcg
- 7 months to 12 months age: 80mcg
- 1 year to 3 years of age: 150mcg
- 4 years to 8 years of age: 200mcg
- 9 years to 13 years of age: 300mcg
- Above 13 years of age: 400mcg
- Pregnancy: 600mcg
- Lactation: 500mcg
Vitamin B9 Supplements
Folate is available in multivitamins and prenatal vitamins. It is also available in B-complex dietary supplements. In dietary supplements, B9 is in the form of folic acid, and sometimes 5-methyl-THF. The supplements containing methyl folate or L-methylfolate are better as many individuals have a mutation in a gene called MTHFR and are unable to convert into methylfolate within the body.
These supplements are available in the form of capsules, tablets, and injections doses ranging from 400mcg to 1000mcg.
Health Diseases and Folic Acid (B9)
People who are cancer-free but at high risk for development can decrease the risk by taking B9, but after diagnosis of cancer (especially colorectal cancer) has been diagnosed might speed up its progression.
For this reason, you should avoid taking folic acid in high doses of more than 1000mcg, especially if they have colorectal adenomas (benign growth) that can lead to cancer.
Depression is more prone in people with folate deficiency and they might not fully respond to treatment as well. Adding folic acid and methylfolate makes the medications more effective.
HEART ATTACK & STROKE
Folic acid supplements help in lowering homocysteine which is harmful to the body and tends to be involved in greater risk of heart-related issues. Furthermore, studies suggest that Folate helps in preventing stroke. It is better to take B complex vitamins including B9 for heart and brain health.
These supplements are said to be beneficial for cognitive function, prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Taking folic acid in pregnancy is a must as it drastically reduces the risk of having a premature delivery or birth defects, especially brain development as well as heart issues. Researches also have shown that without folic acid during pregnancy or pregnancy in deficient mothers it is seen that the brain development of the fetus is compromised.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects communication and behavior, usually beginning by an early age – childhood. Diagnosed autism have limited interests, abnormal behaviors, and difficulty interacting and socializing with others.
Deficiency of Vitamin B9 / Folic Acid Deficiency
Getting too little folate can result in
- Trouble concentrating
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Painful sores inside the mouth or on the tongue
- Skin color change
- Damaged hair, and nails
- Women having babies with neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida
- Premature birth
- Birth defects
- Megaloblastic anemia
High doses of folic acid can lead to:
- Colorectal cancer
- GI upset
- Decrease appetite
- Kidney damage
- Skin rash
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
IS METHYLFOLATE THE SAME AS FOLIC ACID?
Methylfolate is converted from folic acid which is the most active form of B9 that plays a role in converting homocysteine (harmful amino acid) to methionine (better tolerable amino acid). Furthermore, some people are deficient in the MTHFR gene so they are unable to convert folic acid into methyl folate. Taken methylfolate will be absorbable for them instead of folic acid to prevent building up homocysteine.
HOW QUICKLY DOES METHYLFOLATE WORKS?
Methylfolate can start working as early as within 7 – 15 days.
DOES L-METHYLFOLATE CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN?
No, there is no theory to agree or promote that L-methylfolate leads to weight gain.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN L-METHYLFOLATE AND METHYLFOLATE?
L-Methylfolate is also known as Levomefolate is one of the active forms of methylfolate. Another form is a 6S-Mehtylfolate. These are also known as L-5-MTHF, L-methylfolate, (6S)-5-MTHF, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, and (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate.
CAN FOLIC ACID GROW HAIR?
Yes, folic acid can promote hair growth, add volume and even reduce the rate of turning them towards white.
WHAT IS THE BEST SOURCE OF VITAMIN B9?
Beef liver and Green leafy vegetables are the best sources for folate – Vitamin B9.
The Bottom Line
Vitamin B9 is available in many forms like folate, folic acid, methyl folate, L-methylfolate. All of them are better than one another in the active compound and absorbability. But the punch line is to take B9 no matter in whatever forms your like.
If you want to go natural you will be taking the folate form. If the supplements are more convenient for you methylfolate will be the better option in terms of bioavailability and absorbability.
You must discuss with the health expert before starting taking the supplements and/or take natural sources instead. Moreover, constantly take the recommended daily allowance to avoid side effects.
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