Vitamin B9 is one of the water-soluble B vitamins that is also called folate. The name comes from “folium”, which is the Latin word for leaves because folates were first isolated from spinach.
Here’s the kicker, though. The B-vitamins rarely work alone. They work best when together – hence, the B-Complex.
People are rarely deficient in just one B vitamin because they are a “family of nutrients.” So as a general rule, it is best to eat foods rich in the B-Complex or supplement with a B-Complex vitamin.
The B-vitamins are found in oranges, legumes, leafy green vegetables, and vitamin supplements. All of the Bs are essential for good health, and beneficial in reducing the risk of many illnesses.
Folic acid and folate are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9. These folates are found in a wide variety of foods. Its richest sources are liver, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, wheat germ and yeast. Other sources are egg yolk, milk and dairy products, beets, orange juice and whole wheat bread.
Vitamin B9 can occur in different forms: the naturally occurring “folate” and “folic acid”, which is a synthetic folate compound used in vitamin supplements and in fortified food because of its increased stability.
In 1931, folate was identified as the nutrient necessary to prevent anemia during pregnancy. Folates (folic acid and folate) are necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and during growth periods, such as in infancy and during pregnancy. So, folic acid is important for the normal development of an unborn child (fetus).
Folate was first extracted from spinach leaves in 1941, and was first synthesized in 1946. Folates help prevent changes to DNA that can lead to certain cancers. They are needed to replicate DNA, so a folate deficiency hinders DNA synthesis and cell division, affecting bone marrow and rapid cell turnover.
Both adults and children require folate to produce normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. Research has demonstrated that anemia can be reversed with brewer’s yeast, and folate was identified as the corrective substance found in brewer’s yeast.
Several studies have associated diets low in folates with increased risk of breast, pancreatic, and colon cancer. So, increase your folate. A 1996 study of over 121,000 nurses in Europe showed that long-term folic acid supplementation (over a 15 year period) was associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer in women 55 to 69 years of age*.
Numerous studies have found that folate has a powerful impact on reducing Alzheimer’s risk.
Folic Acid Deficiency
When food is processed, much of the folic acid is lost. B9 does not store in the body, so it is important to supplement with the B-vitamins daily.
Low B9 can result in anemia, a low red blood cell count. This can lead to problems with white blood cell function, and poor antibody production. When these conditions exist, this can bring about a lack of immune activity, which then can allow bacteria, viruses, fungi, and some cancer cells to damage your body, resulting in disease.
B9 + B12
The B-vitamins B9 and B12 work very well together. – well, so do all the B-vitamins. Like B9, B12 is fundamental in the formation of red blood cells. It is also necessary for the normal growth of the nervous system during developmental stages, and for the prevention of infertility.
A good health insurance policy when taking B-vitamins is to take the entire B-complex as a single supplement. This way, you are providing your body with all the B-vitamins, and then, it can apply those vitamins at its discretion.
More Bs To Come
I am going to write about each of the B-vitamins in future articles, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here is the link to the B-Complex that I use, four days every week.
*Christensen B. (1996). “Folate deficiency, cancer and congenital abnormalities. Is there a connection?” Tidsskrift for den Norske Laegeforening. 250-4.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. The FDA may not have evaluated some of the statements. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding supplements or making any changes to your dietary program.