Vitamin B9 also know as Folic acid, folate, and folacin—plays many crucial roles in maintaining health. Folic acid works with vitamin B12 to create red blood cells. In fact, folic acid deficiency can lead to a particular form of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, after the technical name for improperly formed blood cells.
In addition, folic acid works with vitamin B12 to facilitate normal cell division and synthesize RNA and DNA, the genetic blueprints of every cell in the body. Women who are planning to become or who are pregnant need adequate levels of folic acid because it is instrumental in preventing most neural-tube birth defects as well as congenital abnormalities. Numerous studies have shown the benefit of folic acid supplementation throughout pregnancy to help prevent a birth defect known as spina bifida.
Folic acid also helps prevent heart disease by lower¬ing levels of the amino acid homocysteine. It also has a key role in keeping the skin, nails, nerves, mucous membranes, hair, and blood healthy.
Good Food Sources: Avocados, bran, beets, celery, fortified cereal, legumes, lentils, okra, broccoli, citrus fruits, liver, salmon, green leafy vegetables, nuts, orange juice, seeds, and pecans. Folic acid is also added to enriched breads, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products. (Folic acid is also manufactured by our intestinal bacteria.)
Signs of Deficiency: Signs of folic acid deficiency include impaired cell division, anemia, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fatigue, paleness, insomnia, and an inflamed, red tongue. Folic acid deficiency is most likely to occur among people who have gastrointestinal or malabsorption disorders, women taking oral contraceptives, pregnant women not taking vitamin supplements, alcoholics, and teenagers who have a poor diet.
Uses of Vitamin B9: Folic acid is used to treat anemia, arteriosclerosis, cancer, constipation, depression, diarrhea, gingivitis, gout, and heart attack and cardiovascular disease.