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Folic acid—vitamin B9

Folic acid, less frequently referred to as vitamin B9, works in concert with others in the water-soluble vitamin B complex to convert carbohydrates, protein and fat into energy. Folic acid, which serves as a coenzyme in the formation of DNA, is one of the most crucial vitamins for women during pregnancy, as well as for women in the months prior to conception. Folic also works with vitamins pyridoxine (B6) and cyanocobalamin (B12), betaine and S-adenosylmethionine to manage serum blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

In addition to interfering with normal cell function, a deficiency of folic acid will affect cell growth and repair. Folic acid deficiency can lead to anemia, memory problems, gastrointestinal upset, damage to the brain and nerve functions, and birth defects. In pregnant women, this vitamin may prevent miscarriages and neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. Older people and people who consume large amounts of alcohol require larger amounts of folic acid.

Folic acid can be found in green leafy vegetables, bananas, avocados, oranges, nuts, whole grains, and brewer's yeast.

Benefits of folic acid

  • Helps protect chromosomes against genetic damage
  • May prevent atherosclerosis caused by excess homocysteine
  • May lower the risk of stroke
  • Assists in preventing against intestinal parasites and food poisoning
  • May prevent some forms of cancer
  • Promotes healthier skin
  • Prevents birth defects
  • Assists in normal cell functioning

Recommendations

RDI/AI – 400 mcg per day
UL – 1000 mcg per day

 

Principal Authors: M. Ofiyeva
Date of Initial Publication: 07/05/2007
Last Updated: 12/29/2008