Vitamin B9 or Folate or Folic Acid?
Actually all three – folic acid is also known as Vitamin B9 or folate. It is a vital vitamin for the formation of red blood cells.
These red blood cells transport oxygen around the body.
What does Vitamin B9 do?
Vitamin B9, together with Vitamin B12 and iron, is an essential vitamin needed to form red blood cells. When levels of Vitamin B9 are low, the body struggles to make red blood cells, which can cause anaemia.
Anaemia means that less oxygen is transported around the body, which may cause tiredness and other symptoms.
Vitamin B9 is also important for nerve function and plays an essential role in cell replication all over the body.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid/Folate) is needed in pregnancy for the healthy development of the baby’s spinal cord.
What foods contain Vitamin B9?
It is important to ensure you have good sources of folate in your diet.
Folate is water-soluble, so overcooking vegetables in boiling water can cause Vitamin B9 to be lost. Steaming or microwaving is better than boiling vegetables.
Suggestions for good food sources for Vitamin B9 are:
- Spinach, Kale, Sprouts, Cabbage.
- Broccoli, Peas, Beans, Oranges
- Liver, Pork, Chicken, Shellfish.
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Beef extracts
What can cause your levels to change?
The most common cause of a Vitamin B9 deficiency is due to inadequate levels in the diet. People who do not eat enough green vegetables, nuts and meat might not be getting enough folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid, in their diet.
Sometimes the body cannot absorb the folate from the diet due to a problem with the bowel. If the bowel is inflamed as in the case of inflammatory bowel disease or gluten intolerance (known as Coeliac disease), the Vitamin B9 levels will decrease even if folate in the diet is adequate. Alcohol can also reduce the amount of folate that is absorbed in the body.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin B9 deficiency?
Symptoms of Vitamin B9 deficiency include:
- Lack of energy
- A sore red tongue
- Mouth ulcers
- Pins and needles
- Muscle weakness
- Disturbed vision
- Mood changes
- Memory problems
How to improve your Vitamin B9 levels
Ensuring that your diet includes a number of foods that contain folate, such as those listed above is an easy way to improve your levels.
If your diet does not include high folate foods, an over the counter folic acid supplement may be an option to meet your recommended daily amount.