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VITAMIN B9 (Folic acid, Foliate)

Vitamin B9 is required for DNA synthesis and cell growth and is important for red blood cell formation, energy production as well as the forming of amino acids. It is vital for healthy cell division and replication because of its involvement as a coenzyme for RNA and DNA synthesis. The body replaces all of its cells every nine months and one of the keys to preventing cancer is to have healthy cellular division. Errant cells can cause cancer cells therefore consuming foods rich in folic acid can help fight off carcinogens preventing various forms of cancer.

It is also essential for creating heme, the iron containing substance in haemoglobin which is crucial for oxygen transport. It is also required for protein metabolism and in treating folic acid anaemia and is essential  for normal foetal development. Folic acid also assists in digestion and the nervous system and works at improving mental as well as emotional health and therefore may be effective in treating depression and anxiety.

The relationship between vitamin B12, vitamin B9 (foliate) and iron is a good example of the complex way in which some essential nutrients help keep the body healthy. Vitamin B12 is indirectly responsible for raising the blood iron level to keep it in a healthy range. Vitamin B12 activates an enzyme called methionine synthase that has many essential functions, including helping the body use vitamin B9 (foliate), which is needed for production of new DNA during cell division. Normally, about one percent of the red blood cells in the circulation are replaced by new cells each day, so that their number always remains adequate to provide oxygen to all cells, tissues and organs. If vitamin B-12 is lacking, usable vitamin B9 can become low, slowing production of new red blood cells in the bone marrow. Eventually, this problem can lead to low levels of iron in the blood as old red cells wear out and die but are not effectively replaced.

Deficiency of vitamin B9

When there is a deficiency of vitamin B9, acne, a sore tongue, cracking at the corners of the mouth and fatigue can occur which are the same symptoms shown by a deficiency of vitamin B2, vitamin B6 as well as iron. Long term deficiency may result in anaemia and later in osteoporosis, as well as cancer of the bowel and cervix. Deficiency in an unborn baby may increase the risk of the baby being born with spina bifida and other serious defects of the nervous system therefore pregnant women must consume natural foods rich in vitamin B9.

Coffee has a mild diuretic effect, which increases urination and water soluble vitamins, such as the B vitamins, can be depleted as a result of this fluid loss. In addition, it also interferes with the metabolism of some B vitamins, such as vitamin B9. Prolonged diarrhoea, drinking excessive alcohol and liver disease impairs the body's ability to absorb vitamin B9. Athletes, dancers and others involve in extreme physical activities may become deficient in vitamin B9 due to excessive perspiration and fluid loss.

See Performers and Sports Nutrition

Highest sources of vitamin B9 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 3786 µg

  • Brewer’s yeast 2340 µg

  • Chicken livers 578 µg

  • Basil 310 µg

  • Wheat germ 281 µg

  • Sunflower seeds 238 µg

  • Soya beans 205 µg

  • Spinach 194 µg

  • Lentils 181 µg

  • Chick peas, pinto beans 172 µg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 163 µg

  • Parsley 152 µg

  • Black beans 149 µg

  • Peanuts 145 µg

  • Navy beans 140 µg

  • Asparagus 135 µg

  • Turnip greens 118 µg

  • Chestnuts 110 µg

  • Beetroot 109 µg

  • Spearmint 105 µg

  • Chlorella and spirulina 94 µg

  • Fish roe 92 µg

  • Hazelnuts 88 µg

  • Walnuts 88 µg

  • Flaxseeds 87 µg

  • Avocado 81 µg

  • Mussels 76 µg

  • Kidney beans 74 µg

  • Peas 65 µg

  • Broccoli 63 µg

  • Brussel sprouts, okra 60 µg

  • Quinoa 42 µg

  • Papaya 38 µg

NOTE: The recommended daily allowance of vitamin B9 is 400 µg for adults. One µg is one microgram.

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