You may have heard that Vitamin B9 (also known as folate or folic acid) can help reduce the risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects and spina bifida. That's true, and it's also valuable for much more than that. As a member of the family of B vitamins, B9 performs an important part in cell metabolism throughout a person’s life.
Vitamin B9 supports:
- fetal development
- metabolism: it's a co-enzyme for nucleic and amino acids
- forming protein
- forming and circulating red blood cells
- breakdown and absorption of vitamin B12
- breakdown and absorption of vitamin C
What Vitamin B9 Can Do for You
B9 is what’s known as “essential” vitamin. It must come from food sources or from supplements, because it can't be created by the body on its own.
In addition to being given to women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant, folate can treat certain types of anemia. It is crucial to synthesizing DNA and cell division. It also helps strengthen metabolism, build protein and create and circulate red blood cells, as mentioned above.
B9 pairs up with vitamins B12 and vitamin C to help your body better absorb these nutrients. Nutrient pairing is one of the many reasons we advocate taking supplements with ingredients that are made to work together (as with Encarna), while also eating whole foods.
Low levels of B9 have been associated with an increased risk for heart disease.
What Vitamin B9 Can Do for Pregnancy / a Baby
B9 is needed for overall fetal growth and development. Some studies have also found B9 supplementation may help prevent preterm birth. Other beneficial effects may include effects to help prevent congenital heart disease and oral clefts.
Conversely, low B9 can lead to birth defects and anemia. Beyond eating a diet with varied sources of folate, the CDC recommends that women "of reproductive age" should get at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) specifically recommends 400 mcg before pregnancy, 600 mcg during pregnancy, and then 500 mcg while breastfeeding/lactation.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are severe congenital abnormalities of a baby’s brain and spine.
Spina bifida, a type of NTD, happens when the spine and spinal cord don't develop properly. It's also called split spine or cleft spine. If the baby's spinal cord fails to close while in the womb, symptoms may be seen above the skin, marked by protruding spinal cord tissue, a birthmark, or a bit of hair.
Genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors all contribute to a baby's health, but studies indicate insufficient folic acid in the mother’s diet may lead to neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Prenatal vitamins that contain adequate amounts of folate and other vitamins are recommended.
High Quality Folate vs. Folic Acid
"Folate" comes from food. "Folic Acid" is synthetic.
We prefer folate from natural sources. The nutrient of dietary folate occurs naturally. It's found in higher amounts in foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, egg yolks, liver, and citrus fruits.
Long-standing evidence indicates that too much of the synthetic folic acid may have detrimental health effects. Excess folic acid may change genetic expression in a way that could encourage growth and multiplication of cancer cells.
High levels of unmetabolized folic acid in the body may also lower the protective functions of specific immune cells. Folic acid can also intensify a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of B9 Deficiency
Folate deficiency might stem from one or more of the following causes: low dietary intake, poor absorption, disorders like leukemia, carcinomas and lymphomas, age, alcohol-related damage, pregnancy and lactation, smoking, and renal dialysis.
Not getting enough b9 can lead to:
- anemia (low iron)
- low white blood cells and platelets
- weakness and weight loss
- cracking/ redness of mouth and tongue
- Low birth weight and preterm delivery in pregnancy
- Neural tube defects.
We often see these symptoms of B9 deficiency:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- lack of energy (lethargy)
- feeling faint
- pale skin (pallor)
- cracking / redness around the mouth
- heartbeats that are noticeable (heart palpitations)
- tinnitus (hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than outside)
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- difficulty concentrating
- hair loss
Please note that if you’re noticing many of these symptoms, particularly severe fatigue and/or mouth sores, you'll want to consult your healthcare provider regarding medical diagnosis.
Foods containing Vitamin B9
Eat these foods high in folic acid:
- green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, and lettuce)
- certain greens (okra, asparagus, tomato juice)
- fresh fruits,
- citrus fruits,
- beans and legumes
Use caution with these substances:
- Certain drugs and medications, especially seizure medications
These have been known to interfere with Vitamin B9 absorption and cause other problems. Alcohol not only disturbs how folic acid is absorbed, it actually increases the amount of B9 removed by the kidneys. Taking folic acid with certain medications might decrease concentration of these medications in your blood.
If you struggle to get enough Vitamin B9, Almeda recommends supplementation with our liquid multivitamin, Encarna.
The majority of prenatal vitamins on the market use folic acid. As a synthetic, folic acid is cheaper to make.
However, Encarna uses all-natural folate. In fact, Encarna contains 310 all-natural ingredients, including 400 mcg DFE of high-quality folate (as Metafolin L-5-MTHF) per ounce. L-Methylfolate has been shown to be more effective than folic acid for increasing concentrations of folate in red blood cells.
As producers of sustainable, premium products, our primary concern is your health (as well as the health of your babies)