Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Foods



Published on: 26-Apr-2024


10 min read




Anushka Tripathi


Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Foods

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Foods

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The human body requires a complex symphony of vitamins and minerals to function optimally. Among these essential players, vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, takes centre stage, particularly for women of childbearing age. Globally, according to the World Health Organization, neural tube defects affect an estimated 300,000 newborns annually, highlighting the critical role of adequate vitamin b9 (folic acid) intake during pregnancy. India is no exception, with studies suggesting a significant prevalence of folic acid deficiency among women. 

But what exactly is folic acid, and why is it so important? This blog delves into folate, exploring its diverse benefits for cell growth, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. We'll uncover the potential consequences of folate deficiency, including fatigue, anaemia, and congenital disabilities. Finally, we'll guide you through folate-rich foods, ensuring you have the knowledge and resources to incorporate this essential vitamin into your diet and optimise your health. Keep reading to know more about vitamin b9 (folic acid).  


Table Of Contents  

1. Vitamin B9 Benefits  

2. What Are The 3 Benefits Of Folic Acid?  

3. What Is Vitamin B9 Deficiency?  

4. Vitamin B9 Deficiency Symptoms 

5. Vitamin B9-Rich Foods Or Which Foods Are Rich In Vitamin B9? 

6. Dietitian’s Recommendation  

7. The Final Say 

8. FAQs  

9. References   

Vitamin B9 Benefits  

Vitamin B9 (folic acid) is essential for producing your baby's neural tube, developing the brain and spinal cord, and synthesising new red blood cells. The following are the roles that vitamin b9 (folic acid) plays in our bodies:   

1. Healthy Red Blood Cell Production   

Your body regularly produces new red blood cells in a process called erythropoiesis. During the early red blood cell stages, folate is needed for cell differentiation, where stem cells develop into more specialised cells. It works closely with vitamin B12 and iron to support the production of red blood cells 

2. DNA Synthesis   

Folic acid coenzyme is important in synthesising DNA and RNA from precursors. The active form of vitamin B9 assists in important methylation reactions in cells and helps maintain healthy cell function. Vitamin B9 is a cofactor in cell division and promotes the formation and maintenance of healthy cells. Therefore, vitamin b9 (folic acid) is essential for pregnant women and children.   

3. Fetal Development   

The neural tube is one of the first structures to develop in the human embryo. The neural tube has a flat structure, but during early pregnancy, it curls to form the brain and spinal cord. In the embryo, the rapidly dividing cells of the neural tube require large amounts of DNA/RNA synthesisThis DNA/RNA synthesis requires the coenzyme folic acid. Because this process occurs immediately after conception, folic acid intake is often recommended for women trying to conceive. Folic acid deficiency during early pregnancy is often associated with neural tube defects 

4. General Well-Being   

In some complex metabolic reactions, such as the methionine cycle, folate is important and contributes to overall well-being by ensuring proper liver function. The amino acid serine, essential for serotonin production, relies on vitamin B9 for cellular response and transport, indicating a deeper connection between vitamin B9 and mental health.   

Folic acid also helps convert carbohydrates into glucose for energy. It also works with vitamin B6 and vitamin 12 to regulate homocysteine levels in the body. Increased levels of homocysteine are often associated with heart disease.  


5. Improves Heart Health   

Your healthcare provider may prescribe vitamin b9 (folic acid) to lower high blood levels of homocysteine, a chemical that builds proteins (amino acids) that can strengthen your arteries. Both high and low levels of homocysteine (compared to moderate levels) are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the exact link between folic acid and cardiovascular disease remains unclear.    

6. Cognitive Enhancement   

Taking folic acid supplements may improve memory and thinking in older people whose condition worsens faster. A Systematic Review also suggested a link between folate deficiency and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  

7. Slow Liver Disease   

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, can cause severe liver damage. Recent studies have shown that consuming foods containing B12 and folic acid slows the disease's progression and reverses liver fibrosis (thickening of scar tissue) and oedema (inflammation).   

8. Slow Age-Related Hearing Loss  

One study found that vitamin b9 (folic acid) supplements may help slow age-related hearing loss in older adults with low dietary folate levels and high homocysteine levels.  

What Are The 3 Benefits Of Folic Acid?  

Folic acid should be taken daily for a variety of reasons. Folic acid affects the body, helping people lead a better and healthier lifestyle. Here are some of the common benefits of folic acid:    

1. Preventing Pregnancy Complications And Birth Defects   

Folic acid is known to be effective in preventing various congenital disabilities, such as neural tube defects, including anencephaly and spina bifida (a condition in which a baby’s skull and part of the brain are lost after birth).   

Maternal folate status is responsible for the risk of neural tube defects. This is why pregnant women are prescribed 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid daily in healthy diet for pregnancy from the month before conception until the third month of pregnancy. Folic acid also helps prevent pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia.   

2. Improves Brain Health  

Low blood folate levels can cause decreased brain function and increase the risk of dementia in older adults. Various studies have shown that folic acid may in Alzheimer’s prevention and improve brain function in mental disorders.  

A 2019 study of 180 adults with mild cognitive impairment found that taking 400 micrograms of vitamin b9 (folic acid) supplements daily for two years significantly improved measures of brain function. These included enhanced verbal IQ and decreased levels of specific blood proteins associated with the progression and onset of Alzheimer’s disease compared to controls.   

3. Reduce The Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease   

High homocysteine (an amino acid) levels may increase your risk of developing heart disease. Folic acid is responsible for the metabolism of homocysteine, reducing the risk of heart diseaseFolic acid supplements also help lower high blood pressure, a factor in heart disease. By stimulating blood flow, they further improve cardiovascular function.    

What Is Vitamin B9 Deficiency?  

Vitamin B9 deficiency can stem from multiple causes, such as inadequate dietary intake. When cooking, heat can degrade folic acid. The small intestine, particularly the jejunum, absorbs folic acid through various transport mechanisms. However, conditions like celiac disease, tropical sprue, or gastric bypass surgery can hinder this absorption process, leading to a deficiency despite sufficient dietary intake, emphasising the complexity of factors influencing folate levels in the body. 

Elevated pH, as occurs in anoxia, may impair folic acid absorption. Drugs such as methotrexate, phenytoin, sulfasalazine, and trimethoprim may interfere with the utilisation of vitamin b9 (folic acid), inhibiting its absorption or conversion to its active form, resulting in folate deficiency. Congenital deficiency of the enzyme required for folate metabolism can also lead to folate deficiency.  


Vitamin B9 Deficiency Symptoms  

One of the first symptoms of folate deficiency is extreme fatigue. Other symptoms of vitamin b9 (folic acid) deficiency include :   


Symptoms Of Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) Deficiency 

Anaemia Symptoms  

  • Paleness  

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) 

  • Irritability 

  • Dizziness 

Oral Symptoms  

  • Tender, red tongue 

  • Mouth sores or mouth ulcers  

  • Reduced sense of taste 

Neurological Symptoms  

  • Memory loss.  

  • Lack of concentration  

  • Confusion   

  • Problem with my judgment   



Vitamin B9-Rich Foods Or Which Foods Are Rich In Vitamin B9?  

Vitamin b9 (folic acid) is found naturally in a variety of foods that you can add to your daily diet. These include:   

Vitamin B9-Rich Foods  

  • Beans and peas, including black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans 

  • Dark, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and beets  

  • Fruit (and fruit juice), including avocados, tomato juice, oranges and orange juice, and melons 

  • Nuts, such as walnuts and peanuts.  

  • Eggs and dairy  

  • Seafood, including Dungeness crab and halibut 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires adding folic acid when cooking certain foods. Foods fortified with vitamin b9 (folic acid) include:    

  • Bread 

  • Cereal 

  • Cornmeal 

  • Flour 

  • Pasta  

  • Rice 


Dietitian’s Recommendation   

Dietary requirements for vitamin b9 (folic acid) can be met through familiar nutritional food sources. If your body cannot absorb folic acid from food or your dietary needs are higher, talk to your doctor and consider taking a folic acid supplement. Our fast-paced lifestyles, vitamin-poor diets, and excessive drug and alcohol consumption make us prone to vitamin B9 deficiency. We must include foods rich in vitamin B9 in our diet and move towards a deficiency-free India.   

-Dt. Lavina Chauhan 


The Final Say 

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) is an essential vitamin that plays a vital role in red blood cell production and DNA synthesis. It is necessary for a healthy liver, skin, hair, and eyes. Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 found in supplements and fortified foods, while folic acid is found naturally in foods.   

All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they are not stored in the body. Vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness, preventing you from performing simple daily activities such as climbing stairs.    




1. Can you explain vitamin b9 function? 
Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and mental and emotional health. It aids in producing DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material, and is especially important when cells and tissues are proliferating, such as in infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. 

2. Why is vitamin B9 called folic acid? 

Folic acid is a synthetic form of B9 available in supplements and fortified foods, whereas folate occurs naturally in foods. All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning the body does not store them. Folic acid is essential for brain function and contributes significantly to mental and emotional well-being. 

3. What are the sources of vitamin b9 (folic acid)? 

Here are the best vitamin b9 (folic acid) foods for vegetarians: 

  • Dark green leafy vegetables  

  • Beans 

  • Peanuts 

  • Sunflower seeds 

  • Fresh fruits, fruit juices 

  • Whole grains 

4. What is vitamin B9 used for, and will taking supplements be useful in combating deficiency?  

Vitamin B9 (folic acid), is crucial for cell division, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell formation. It's also essential during pregnancy for foetal development. Supplements can be helpful in combating deficiency, particularly for pregnant women, individuals with malabsorption issues, or those with a poor diet lacking in folate-rich foods like leafy greens, legumes, and fortified grains. 



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