What Is Vitamin B9: Vitamin B9 Benefits, Sources and More

‍Vitamin B9, also known as folate or folic acid, is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. It is particularly important for cell growth, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the numerous benefits of vitamin B9, the sources of this vital nutrient, and the recommended daily intake to maintain healthy folate levels. 

Folate vs. Folic Acid: Understanding the Difference In B Vitamins

Although the terms folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, they represent different forms of vitamin B9. Folate is the naturally occurring form found in various foods, while folic acid is a synthetic version added to supplements and fortified foods. Another form of vitamin B9 is methylfolate, which is a more bioavailable and easily digestible supplement compared to folic acid.


Folate refers to the naturally occurring forms of vitamin B9 found in a wide range of foods. This essential nutrient is critical for several bodily functions, including the production of DNA, red blood cells, and the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin b9 that is added to supplements and fortified foods. This artificial version is more stable and easier for the body to absorb than naturally occurring folate. Folic acid is commonly used in prenatal vitamins and dietary supplements. Amongst other things Folic acid has been proven to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in fetuses.


Methylfolate, also known as 5-MTHF, is a natural, more bioavailable form of folic acid supplement. This form of folate is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body, making it an ideal choice for individuals with genetic mutations that affect folate metabolism.

Sources of Vitamin B9

There are numerous natural and fortified sources of folic acid. Incorporating these foods into your diet is essential to ensure you receive the recommended daily intake.

Natural Folate Sources

A variety of foods contain naturally occurring folate, including:

·        Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts

·        Legumes, like lentils, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans

·        Fruits and fruit juices, especially oranges, melons, and avocado

·        Nuts, such as walnuts and peanuts

·        Whole grains, including fortified cereals, bread, pasta, and rice

·        Animal products, like beef liver, chicken liver, and eggs

Fortified Foods That Contain Folate

In addition to natural sources, many foods are fortified with folic acid to ensure adequate public intake. The most common foods with folic acid fortification are:

·        Fortified cereals

·        Enriched bread, pasta, and rice

·        Cornmeal and corn masa flour

·        Energy drinks

And of course there is always the option for folic acid supplementation.

Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin B9

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B9 varies depending on age, sex, and life stage. The following guidelines outline the suggested intake for different age groups:

·        Infants (0-6 months): 65 mcg of folic acid

·        Infants (7-12 months): 80 mcg of folic acid

·        Children (1-3 years): 150 mcg of folic acid

·        Children (4-8 years): 200 mcg of folic acid

·        Children (9-13 years): 300 mcg of folic acid

·        Adolescents and adults (14 years and older): 400 mcg of folic acid

·        Pregnant women: 600 mcg of folic acid

·        Lactating women: 500 mcg of folic acid

It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual needs.

Times When You May Be Given Higher Dosage Of Folate Supplements

More commonly conditions like Chron's or Celiac disease can also affect folate absorption. As a result people with Celiac disease have a much higher recommended intake of folate, especially compared than the adult populations recommended 400mg and taking folic acid supplements is regularly recommend. Also higher dose supplements of 5mg can be prescribed for the prevention of neural tube birth defects in higher risk pregnancies.

Benefits of Vitamin B9

Folic acid offers numerous health benefits, ranging from promoting healthy fetal development to supporting cardiovascular health. Here, we discuss the most significant benefits backed by scientific evidence.

Lower Risk of Neural Tube Defects

Adequate intake of folic acid during pregnancy is crucial for preventing neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Research has shown that women who take folic acid supplements before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy can reduce their risk of having a child with an NTD by 40% to 80% [1].

Cardiovascular Health

Folic acid supplements have been found to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. While studies have not conclusively proven that folic acid reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, several have found that higher intake is associated with a lower risk of stroke [2]

Cognitive Function and Mental Health

There is evidence to suggest that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B9 may help preserve memory and cognitive function, particularly in older adults [3]. Folate deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, and supplementing with folic acid may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline in at-risk individuals.

Additionally, studies have shown that folic acid supplementation may be beneficial in the treatment of depression, as it can help regulate neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation [4]. It's also been shown that B vitamins can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Folic Acid Cancer Prevention

Numerous studies have explored the relationship between vitamin B9 and cancer risk. Some research suggests that maintaining adequate folate levels may protect against certain types of cancers, such as lung, breast, cervical, and stomach cancers [5]. However, other studies have not found a significant association between vitamin B9 and cancer risk [6].

Age-Related Hearing Loss

One study found that folic acid supplementation may help slow age-related hearing loss in older adults with low dietary folate intake and high homocysteine levels [7].

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

A large study found that women who took daily supplements of folic acid, along with vitamins B6 and B12, had a reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that can cause vision loss [8].


Most of the evidence around taking folic acid supplements for inflammatory issues is specifically related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease or the fact that it seems to reduce the risk of endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction sets into artery walls and is a result of damage caused by chronic inflammation. Folate supplementation may also reduce inflammation by having an effect on DNA methylation. However, this is relatively poorly understood.

Potential Risks of Vitamin B9

While vitamin B9 is generally safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts, excessive intake can pose certain health risks. Some potential concerns related to high folic acid intake include:

·        Masking vitamin B12 deficiency: High levels of folate can mask the symptoms of B12 deficiency, which can lead to neurological damage if left untreated. [2]

·        Preneoplastic lesions: Some research has suggested that high folic acid intake may accelerate the progression of preneoplastic lesions, potentially increasing the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer. [9]

·        Unmetabolized folic acid: Excess folic acid that the body cannot metabolize may have adverse effects on the immune system and cognitive function in older adults [2].

·        Medication interactions: Folate supplements may interact with certain medications, including epilepsy medications, methotrexate, and sulfasalazine. [2] 

Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any dietary supplement to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your individual needs.

Folate Deficiency Risks

A folate deficiency can cause anaemia, this is where the body produces oversized red blood cells that don't function correctly. This folic acid deficiency is usually characterized by the following symptoms: 

  • extreme tiredness

  • low energy

  • a sore and red tongue

  • mouth ulcers

  • weak muscles

  • pins and needles

  • vision issues

  • psychological problems, most notably depression

  • memory issues

A lot of these symptoms of folate deficiencies can occur without the anaemia. Deficiencies in folic acid is relatively rare, but some infants can be born with birth defects that cause issues with folate absorption. 

Folic Acid Uses Summary

Vitamin B9, or folate, is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in a variety of bodily functions. It is particularly important for cell growth, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. Ensuring you get enough folate through a combination of natural and fortified food sources can help support overall health and wellbeing. Additionally, folic acid supplementation may be necessary for specific populations, such as pregnant women or those with genetic mutations affecting folate metabolism. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate intake before taking folic acid supplements for your individual needs.


1 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413112/

2 - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/

3 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33935641/

4 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27655070/

5 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5354672/

6 - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2326409816661357

7 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25384423/

8 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32858063/

9 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/155598

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