Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid

Getting enough of this B-Vitamin could prevent many thousands of deaths a year from cardiovascular disease. It could also virtually halve the number of babies born with birth defects. Yet nine out of ten adults in Australia and New Zealand take in too little folic acid.

What it is

A water-soluble member of the B complex vitaimin called B9, folic acid is also known as “folate” or “folacin”. It was first identified in the 1940s when it was extracted from spinach. Because the body can’t store it for very long, daily consumption is necessary to avoid deficiencie. Also, as it is destroyed by cooking and by long-storage, supplementation is often the best way to obtain adequate folic acid.

What it does

Folic acid is necessary for cell division so is involved in blood cell creation, healing wounds and building muscles. It is vital in DNA and RNA formation, ensuring the correct duplication of cells to avoid cancers. It is especially imortant in foetal development and also helps to produce key chemicals for the brain and nervous system.

Common uses

  • protects against birth defects
  • reduces heart disease
  • reduces risk of stroke
  • lowers risk for several cancers
  • in pregrancy to protect agains foetal deformities
  • pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding)

Folic acid is very important for all women who may become pregnant. Adequate folate intake during the periconceptual period, the time just before and just after a woman becomes pregnant, protects against neural tube defects. Neural tube defects result in malformations of the spine (spina bifida).

Dietary Sources

  • Green vegetables: asparagus, green beans, raw spinach leaves
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains: wheat and cereals fortified with folic acid
  • Nuts: peanuts
  • Legumes: lentils, black beans
  • Citrus fruits: Orange juice has a fair amount of folate, one glass containing 109mcg

Latest findings

It seems that the best way to get enough folic acid is through supplementation due to the ease with which it is destroyed in cooking and storage.In one study people taking 400mcg of folic aci a day in pills or in specially fortified foods increased their folic acid levels while those who just ate foods naturally rich in folic acid showed no increase. It is suggested that you would need to eat 24 spears of asparagus a day to get the 400mcg recommended.

A preliminary study from Oxford University suggests that folic acid may play an important role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. People with the disease tended to have lower blood levels of folic acid and Vitamin B12 than healthy people of the same age.

Guidlines for use:

Folic Acid can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food. When taking an individual supplement for any reason, combine it with Vitamin B12.