Vitamin B9 (folic acid) is a B-vitamin essential for growth, proper brain function, and mental and emotional health. Like other B-vitamins, it also converts carbohydrates into sugar, which is then transformed into energy. It works closely with vitamins B6 and B12 to regulate red blood cells and control blood levels of homocysteine, which is known to deplete folic acid from the body.
Vitamin B9 (folic acid) can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, beans and legumes, beef liver, whole grains, oysters, avocado, milk, and orange juice. Because meats are a poor source of B9, most doctors recommend B9 supplements to prevent folic acid deficiency, especially in pregnant and menstruating women. Some of the other uses of vitamin B9 (folic acid) are as follows:
Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women can cause neural tube defects in their babies. This is why folate is found in most prenatal vitamins. Taking folic acid supplements in the first trimester can reduce the risk of birth defects by 72% to 100%. Studies also suggest that folic acid can prevent miscarriages, Down’s syndrome, and childhood leukemia, although this has yet to be proven.
2. Homocysteine control
Vitamin B9 (folic acid) can reduce cholesterol and homocysteine, both primary risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. It also prevents damage to the blood vessels and encourages better blood flow. Folic acid strengthens the nervous system, preventing nervous disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
To effectively reduce homocysteine, doctors usually recommend at least 400 mcg of folate a day, although some studies show that 650 to 800 mcg may be more effective. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), this is best obtained from the diet rather than supplements, except for patients with a personal or family history of heart disease.
3. Bone strength
Folic acid is one of the primary nutrients needed to keep bones healthy throughout one’s life. Sufficient levels of vitamin B9 (folic acid), in conjunction with vitamins B6 and B12, can help prevent osteoporosis and other bone disorders.
4. Cancer prevention
Folic acid may also protect against cancer of the colon, breast, cervix, esophagus, and stomach. Some experts believe it keeps DNA healthy and prevents cancerous mutations. To effectively prevent colorectal cancer, patients need al least 400 mcg of folic acid every day for at least 15 years. Women who regularly drink alcohol are more likely to develop breast cancer, and may need folic acid to lower the risk.
IMPORTANT: Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the US. Some vitamin B9 (folic acid) supplements may contain silica, starch, sugar, or gluten, which may be harmful to your health. Choose supplements that are GMP-compliant to make sure they do not contain such chemicals.
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