NUTRIENTS A-Z: Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)

Folate and folic acid are different forms of vitamin B9.  Folate is the naturally occurring form, while folic acid is the synthetic form.  B9 is a water-soluble vitamin that is part of the B vitamin family.

Vitamin B9 is essential for human growth and development, encourages normal nerve and brain function, and may help reduce blood-levels of homocysteine (an amino acid implicated in increased risk of heart disease and stroke). Folic acid or folate may also help protect against cancers of the lung, colon, and cervix, and may help slow memory decline associated with aging.  Pregnant women have an increased need for folic acid because it supports the growth of the placenta and fetus, and helps to prevent several types of birth defects, especially those of the brain and spine.

Folate can mask an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency, so it is wise to supplement with both of these nutrients at the same time.

Food sources of natural B9 or folate include dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, torula yeast, cantaloupe, apricots, pumpkin, avocado, beans, whole wheat, dark rye flour, milk products, organ meats, oysters, salmon, tuna, brewer’s yeast and dates. 

Symptoms of a vitamin B9 deficiency include:

  • Red tongue, shiny, smooth and painful

  • Ulcers in mouth

  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums

  • Intestinal malabsorption

  • Diarrhea

  • Heart palpitations

  • Swelling of ankles

  • Light-headedness

  • Depression

  • Forgetfulness

  • Loss of appetite, weight loss

  • Greying hair

  • Excess pigmentation of skin

  • Irritable, brooding or self-conscious

  • Anemia

Supplementary range:  1 – 2.2mg/day



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