9 Impressive Benefits of Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

The health benefits of vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, include prevention of heart disorders, stroke, cancer, and birth defects during pregnancy. It also helps in building muscles, cell enhancement, hemoglobin formation, and provides relief from mental and emotional disorders.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid or vitamin B9 belongs to the family of water-soluble vitamins and it is essential to include this vitamin in your diet plan. The human body is capable of preparing this vital vitamin and it is then stored in the liver. Daily requirements of the human body utilize a part of this stored vitamin and surplus amount is released out of the body through excretion. It performs the most vital functions of the body, including everything from RBC formation to energy production.

Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency

The deficiency symptoms of folic acid include anemia, memory loss, restricted growth of the brain and nerves, paranoia, weakness, skin cracking, and a sore tongue. Apart from those mentioned above, a deficiency of vitamin B9 may also lead to severe problems like heart palpitations, birth defects, osteoporosis, bowel cancer, and leucopenia. Moreover, infertility and sterility are also reported in patients that are deficient in this vitamin.

Folic acid or vitamin B9 belongs to the family of water-soluble vitamins & it’s essential to include it in your diet plan. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Important Sources of Folic Acid

The National Institutes of Health say that in order to make your diet rich in vitamin B9 or folic acid, you should include food items like green vegetables, cheese, and mushrooms. Beans, legumes, brewer’s yeast, and cauliflower are some rich sources of folic acid. Oranges, bananas, peas, brown rice, and lentils can also be included in this list. [1]

Health Benefits of Folic Acid

It has become very clear that vitamin B9 or folic acid is a treasure trove of benefits for the human body and is a great source of improving overall health. Here are some of the health benefits of this vitamin further elaborated to properly assess its significance: [2]

Improves Heart Health

A fact sheet by the NIH suggests that folic acid is a significant tool in improving the working of the human heart. It does so by removing homocysteine, which is one of the major causes of heart attacks at early ages. It controls the cholesterol levels in the heart, thus ensuring that our cardiovascular system is saved from various disorders. [3]

Prevents Stroke

Folic acid helps in controlling the amount of homocysteine in the body and reduces the chances of a stroke. Apart from causing heart attacks, homocysteine is responsible for causing strokes. Moreover, a large amount of homocysteine in the body may also lead to the weakening of bones, thus increasing the probability of frequent fractures.

Anticancer Potential

Low folate levels are generally associated with an increased risk of cancer. The British Journal of Cancer has published a study explaining how folate helps in lowering the risk of cancer. Dietary folate, when consumed regularly, has the ability to reduce breast cancer risk in women who consume a high level of alcohol. Researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health, China found that natural folate has the ability to protect against pancreatic cancer. There is a tug of war between many studies in determining whether folate is healthy for keeping bladder cancer away. Although the results look promising, more evidence is still required to arrive at a conclusion. While you are thinking as to how to add more folate to your diet, make sure to seek natural options in contrast to supplements as some evidence points out the negative effect of folic acid-containing supplements. In an evidence-based critical review, Prof. Young-In Kim, MD says that folate is a potent anti-tumor agent but when taken in the form of supplements, it can instead be perilous than safe, for colorectal cancer. Also, when folic acid is not converted into active vitamin B9 or metabolized, it is a threat as it can fuel the growth of pre-existing cancers. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Prevents Birth Defects

Folic acid is a reliable resource for limiting defects during pregnancy and the birth of a child. It is a common situation that pregnant women maintaining a diet deficient in this vitamin are far less likely to deliver a healthy child. The birth defects caused by its deficiency include neural tube defects. Thus, vitamin B9 effectively improves the chances of giving birth to a healthy, happy child.

Builds Muscles

Folic acid is considered to be a muscle building component since it helps in the growth and maintenance of muscle tissues.

Promotes the Formation of RBC

Vitamin B9 is an essential element in the formation of red blood cells (RBC). Also, this vitamin is a significant contributor to building and repairing skin cells in the human body. The cells found in the small intestine lining are also fabricated from this vitamin. Folic acid is also responsible for replacing old cells with new ones, thus keeping our body fresh and new.

Coenzyme Activity

Folic acid is considered as a coenzyme, which effectively works in association with enzymes to perform the most desirable and important activities of the body, like the synthesis of DNA.

Increases Hemoglobin Level

Folic acid is responsible for improving the level of hemoglobin in the human body. Hemoglobin is an essential component that helps in the transfer of oxygen to cells and organ systems that need it to function properly. This can boost energy levels and increase metabolic efficiency.

Boosts Mental Health

Folic acid is helpful in treating various mental and emotional disorders. For instance, it is useful in relieving anxiety and depression, which are two of the most common mental health problems suffered by people in the modern world.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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