Folic acid, also known as folate, is important for the production and maintenance of new cells. This is especially necessary during both pregnancy and infancy when cell growth is extremely rapid. Both adults and children need folic acid to make normal red blood cells and to prevent anemia.
Prevents Birth Defects
Having enough folic acid in early pregnancy can prevent birth defects, including problems with the spine (neural tube defects) and brain. Women who become pregnant and don't consume enough vitamin B-9 are also more likely to have babies who have low birth weight or are premature.
Nutritionists categorize vitamins by the materials that a vitamin will dissolve in. There are two categories.
Water-soluble vitamins, which include the B-complex group and vitamin C, travel through the bloodstream. Whatever water-soluble vitamins are not used by the body are eliminated in urine, which means you need a continuous supply of them in your food. Vitamin B9 is a water-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin B9 and Heart Disease
Vitamin B9 works with vitamins B6 and B12 to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease. However, researchers aren't sure whether homocysteine is a cause of heart disease or just a marker that indicates someone may have heart disease.
For most people who are concerned about heart disease, the goal should be getting enough B vitamins from healthy foods.
In some cases your doctor may recommend taking B vitamins to lower homocysteine levels. If you are worried about heart disease, ask your doctor whether taking a B vitamin supplement would be right for you.
Vitamin B9 and Depression
The evidence about whether B9 can help relieve depression is mixed. Some studies show that 15 to 38 percent of people with depression have low folate levels in their bodies. Those with very low levels tend to be the most depressed.
One study found that people who did not get better when taking antidepressants had low levels of folic acid. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking 500 mcg of vitamin B9 daily helped the antidepressant Prozac work better in women, but maybe not men.
Another study found that taking folic acid and vitamin B12 was no better than placebo in relieving depression in older people. So it would seem further studies are needed for any definitive answers.
- Plays an important role in the synthesis of several types of amino acids.
- Needed for energy production.
- Essential in the formation of red blood cells.
- Important in cell division, replication, and protein synthesis.
- Strengthens immunity.
Recommended Daily Values
- Adults 19 years and older: 400 mcg (RDA)
- Pregnant women: 600 mcg (RDA)
- Amounts used in studies for heart disease range from 400 to 1,200 mcg. Consult with your health care provider.
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