Vitamin B9 or folic acid: all about this vitamin

Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is a key vitamin during pregnancy. A deficiency can lead to serious fetal malformations and a risk of premature delivery. Outside this particular period, folates have an equally essential role in the body, particularly in maturation and cell renewal.

Characteristics of vitamin B9 :

  • Water-soluble vitamin not synthesized by the body
  • Essential role in cell renewal and red blood cell synthesis
  • Found mainly in liver and leafy green vegetables
  • Doubled folate requirements during pregnancy
  • Deficiency responsible for fetal malformations, Spina Bifida and megaloblastic anemia

Why eat foods high in folic acid?

Definition, benefits and roles of folic acid

Pregnancy and folates

Because of the link between neural tube defects and folate intake, it is recommended that women planning to become pregnant consume 400 µg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements in addition to folate intake. Ideally, this supplementation should begin 3 months before conception and continue during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Cell renewal

Vitamin B9 (folic acid) plays an important role in protein metabolism and DNA production. Folic acid is involved in the production of rapidly renewing cells such as white and red blood cells, skin cells, etc.

Vitamin B9, vitamin B12 and cardiovascular protection

These two vitamins could act synergistically to reduce homocysteine levels. It is now known that excess homocysteine in the blood is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A good intake of vitamins B9 and B12 could then contribute to cardiovascular prevention.

Beauty of the hair

Folic acid promotes the regeneration of the dander (nails and hair) and stimulates the hair follicle. A good supply of vitamin B9 helps to strengthen hair and prevent hair loss.

In which foods is vitamin B9 found?

Vitamin B9 is found mainly in offal, legumes and some green vegetables. Here is a list of the 20 foods richest in folic acid:

Foodstuffs Portions of food (µg)
Poultry offal, grilled or braised 100 g 345-770 µg
Lamb or veal liver, sautéed 100 g 331-400 µg
Cooked legumes 100 g 229-368 µg
Pork or beef liver, braised or sautéed 100 g 163-260 µg
Boiled spinach 125 ml (1/2 cup) 139 µg
Boiled asparagus 125 ml (1/2 cup) 134 µg
Fortified, cooked pasta products 125 ml (1/2 cup) 120-125 µg
Soybeans, boiled or sautéed 125 ml (1/2 cup) 83-106 µg
Boiled broccoli 125 ml (1/2 cup) 89 µg
Roasted sunflower seeds 60 ml (1/4 cup) 81 µg
Roman lettuce 250 ml (1 cup) 80 µg
Sunflower seed butter 30 ml (2 tablespoons) 77 µg
Cooked beetroot 125 ml (1/2 cup) 72 µg
Sprouted soy beans 125 ml (1/2 cup) 64 µg
Raw spinach 250 ml (1 cup) 61 µg
Orange juice 125 ml (1/2 cup) 58 µg
Cooked Brussels sprouts 4 cabbages (80 g) 50 µg
Gombos (okras), boiled 125 ml (1/2 cup) 39 µg
Nuts, hazelnuts, filberts, dehydrated, unbleached 60 ml (1/4 cup) 39 µg
Flax seeds 60 ml (1/4 cup) 37 µg

How to use vitamin B9 (folic acid) properly?

Use of folic acid

Daily vitamin B9 requirements

Folate needs change over the life cycle. Especially for pregnant women, it is essential to cover the needs that are then increased to avoid poor neural tube closure (Spina Bifida) and fetal malformations.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
Babies 0-6 months 65 µg*
Babies 7-12 months 80 µg*
Babies 1-3 years old 150 µg
Children 4-8 years old 200 µg
Boys 9-13 years old 300 µg
Girls 9-13 years old 300 µg
Boys 14-18 years old 400 µg
Girls 14-18 years old 400
Men 19-50 years old 400 µg
Women 19-50 years old 400 µg
Men 50 years and over 400 µg
Women 50 years and over 400 µg
Pregnant women 800 µg
Nursing Women 500 µg

*Adequate contributions

Vitamin B9 dietary supplements

Vitamin B9 supplementation may be considered to support the immune system, reduce cardiovascular risk or prevent neurological disorders. In pregnant women, folic acid supplementation should be systematic to avoid fetal malformations and the risk of premature delivery. It is recommended to take 800 micrograms of folic acid per day, including a diet rich in folates. In other cases, the dosage and duration of supplementation may vary. However, it is strongly recommended never to exceed 1 mg of folic acid per day and to seek the advice of a doctor.

Adverse effects of vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 deficiencies

Vitamin B9 deficiency usually results in macrocytic anemia, nausea, neurological disorders up to and including dementia or tissue inflammation. In pregnant women, a vitamin B9 deficiency can have dramatic consequences: Spina Bifida, growth retardation, premature delivery, etc. This is why supplementation should be considered even before conception.

Excessive intake of folic acid

At very high doses, folic acid can become neurotoxic and cause more or less serious disorders of the nervous system. It is recommended never to exceed 1 mg per day without prior medical advice.

Interactions (with other nutrients)

Vitamin B9 seems to act in synergy with vitamin B12, a good supply of these two elements is essential. On the other hand, some drug treatments may interact with folic acid and prevent its assimilation. For example, oral contraceptives or methothrexate have a negative effect on blood folate levels. In people on treatment, it may then be wise to consider supplementation.

Chemical properties

The crude formula of vitamin B9 is C19H19N7O6, its molecular weight is 441.3975 g/mol. It is a water-soluble vitamin with many roles in the body. Folic acid is, in fact, a metabolic precursor of THF, which is involved in DNA synthesis. At the level of protein metabolism, vitamin B9 allows the synthesis of key amino acids (serine, methionine, etc.).

While plants can synthesize folic acid, animals and humans must necessarily find it in the daily diet to avoid the risk of deficiencies.

History of the event

History of the nutrient

It was in 1930 that L. Wills discovered the existence of severe anemia common to many pregnant women from disadvantaged backgrounds in some parts of India. The link between diet and this type of megaloblastic anemia is thus established. This form of anemia will be treated by adding yeast to the diet.

Later, researchers will be able to isolate vitamin B9 from certain foods (liver, vegetables, etc.). Therefore, the study of this nutrient will reveal its many roles in maturation and cell renewal.

It was only in 1980 that scientists were able to establish a clear link between vitamin B9 deficiency and Spina Bifida. These findings will quickly lead to the first recommendations for vitamin B9 supplementation during pregnancy.