Vitamin B9, also known as „folic acid”, or simply „folate”, is essential in development and proper functioning of the body. Because folic acid plays an important role in the growth and regeneration of cells, this is necessary for adults and vital for pregnancy.
The difference between folate and folic acid is given by the source of provenience:
-The folates are found in foods and as an active ingredient in the body;
-The folic acid is found in a smaller quantity in foods and organism, but is the most used form of Vitamin B9 in food supplements and fortified foods.
The folic acid and folate are water soluble vitamins and so they can not be retained by the body and must be consumed daily (from foods). It is essential for the proper functioning of brain and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. This vitamin participates in the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and is very important in times of rapid development of the organism (pregnancy, childhood, adolescence).
The B9 vitamin also plays a decisive role in the development of bones and nervous system of the fetus. It improves fertility in both women and men, reduces the risk of heart attack by reducing homocysteine levels, an amino acid that gives rise to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, it speeds up the wound healing process, strengthens the hair and nails and is particularly important in the process of rapid growth.
The deficiency of folic acid is manifested through:
- weight loss
- digestive disorders
- inflammation within the body
- mood swings
The excess of vitamin B9 in the long therm may reduce the body capacity to absorb some minerals and can aggravate colon diseases. The total amount of vitamin B9 in the body is 10-30 mg and about half of it is found in the liver and the other half in blood and tissues.
A study on more than 500.000 people has shown that a folate consumption (from food) of over 900 micrograms decreases the risk of cancer (of all types) with approximately 30%.
The recommended daily dose of folic acid varies by age and physiological state of the body, so:
- in children under one year is recommended to take folic acid in doses between 0.065 mg and 0.08 mg
- for children aged between 1 year and 10 years old, the recommended daily dose is between 0.15 to 0.2 mg
- for adults, the doses rises to 0.3 – 0.4 mg
- for pregnant and lactating women the recommended dose is between 0.5 and 0.6 mg of folic acid
The best natural sources of Vitamin B9 are:
- green leafy vegetables
- vegetables (beans, peas, lentil)
- egg yolk
- milk and fermented cheese
- sunflower seeds
- bird meat (especially organs)
- fruits with woody shell (nuts)
Alcoholic people, pregnant women and those who suffer from digestive disorders must consume a higher quantity of vitamin B9 containing foods.
There are many food sources of folates and therefore, is not recommended to take food supplements with this vitamin, unless a physician recommends it (usually in case of pregnancy). However, the maximum daily dose of Vitamin B9 must not be exceeded.
The folic acid from animal products (beef liver for example) appears to be relatively stable in cooking, unlike folic acid from vegetable products (such as cabbage) where it can be lost up to 40% after cooking process.