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Vitamin B9
(Folic acid)
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Home :: Vitamins B9

Vitamin B9 - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

Alternative names :- Folic acid; Folate; Diet - folic acid; Pteroylglutamic acid

The term folic acid is derived from the Latin folium (leaf), because folic acid is found extensively in green vegetables. Many bacteria synthesize folic acid, but Lactobacillus casei grows well only if folic acid is supplied. Folic acid was, therefore, termed the Lactobacillus casei factor. Thus, both the anti-anemia vitamins were originally discovered as essential factors for the growth of organisms-folic acid as the L. casei factor, and vitamin B12 as a factor for the growth of L. lactis.

Folacin and folate are generic names for compounds synthesized by plants and bacteria with the nutritional properties and chemical structure of folic acid. Though fruits and vegetables constitute the primary source of folic acid, only synthetic preparations are now marketed.

Benefits and functions of vitamin B9

Folic acid is itself inactive. It is converted in the body to the biologically active form, folinic acid. Folinic acid is essential for nucleoprotein synthesis and is therefore required for cell division and also for the maturation of red blood cells. Its principal function is to transport a single carbon atom from one compound to another. Many such steps are necessary for nucleic acid synthesis. Hence deficiency of folic acid leads to impaired cell division. These effects are most evident in rapidly growing tissues such as red blood cells and intestinal epithelial cells.

Pregnant women who are deficient in folic acid are more likely to have children with birth defects. Many neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) are believed to be preventable if women of childbearing age supplement their diets with folic acid. This is why women planning on becoming pregnant should be taking a multivitamin with plenty of folate, and why all pregnant women receiving prenatal care are put on a prenatal vitamin.

Recommended dosage of vitamin B9

The minimum supplement required to maintain normal blood level in those deprived of dietary folate is 50-100 micrograms a day. The average daily intake varies from 700-1500 micrograms, but only the fraction converted to monoglutamate may be absorbed.

Deficiency symptoms of vitamin B9

Folic acid, being both heat-labile and water soluble, is easily destroyed by repeated boiling of food, or during cooking with excess water that is subsequently discarded. This is the major cause of folic acid deficiency. A high proportion of British women are likely to have sub-optimum folate intake because of the habit of eating less, and that too, overcooked vegetables.

Deficiency Symptoms are :

  • Anemia
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired brain and nerve functions
  • Birth defects

Food sources of vitamin B9

Foods that contain significant quantities of folic acid include: liver, lentils, legumes, brown rice, poultry, pork, lamb, cheese, spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, and brewer's yeast. Fresh vegetables are better than cooked because heat destroys folic acid.


Anybody on medication for epilepsy should be careful with large amounts of folic acid, since it can change the functioning of such drugs.

Too much folic acid may mask a Vitamin B9 deficiency. Regular high intake of folic acid may cause digestive upset, energy loss and insomnia.

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