Amazing Facts About Vitamin B9

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Vitamin B9 is also known as folate or folic acid, the latter term being the one used in supplements and food fortification. This vitamin has many functions and uses in the human body. Vitamin B9 works with other B vitamins to form the proteins and carbohydrates we eat into substances our bodies can utilize. In fact, we would look very different without Vitamin B9 and the other B vitamins, since these nutrients can be attributed to our skin and hair’s color and healthy appearance. Without the B vitamins, we won’t be able to move and think properly as well.

The most well known folic acid contribution is its role in pregnancy. Additional dosage of folic acid is vital to the proper formation of the neural tube in growing fetuses. The neural tube is what forms the central nervous system, and without the desired amount of this vitamin in the mother’s body, defects can develop. Spina bifida and anencephaly, the most common neural tube defects, are causes of vitamin B9 deficiency during the early stages of pregnancy. Thousands of babies all over the world suffer birth defects that lead to death or paralysis because their mothers didn’t have the right amount of vitamin B9 intake. [1]

Another benefit that can be obtained from Vitamin B9 is its effect on depression. Studies have shown that people who are depressed are low in vitamin B, particularly vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9. [2] Findings from the studies done show that vitamin B9 supplementation during depression worked particularly well on women, compared to men in the study.

In addition, antidepressants were found to have decreased efficacy on people taking them when they don’t have enoug Vitamin B9. Further research is in development for the effects of Vitamin B9 on depression-induced corticosteroids, as one of the adverse effects of corticosteroid treatment is depression. [3] Additional studies also showed promise in memory improvement and the prevention of cognitive decline in people taking vitamin B9 supplements. [4]

Vitamin B9 in our Diets

Plenty of food products in the market today are enriched with Vitamin B9. You may have noticed that bread, oats, and a lot of cereals contain folic acid as additional nutrients. However, getting the recommended amount of at least 400 micrograms (or 0.4 milligrams) every day, for adults without special considerations, will either need an increase in intake of Vitamin B9-rich foods or supplementation. Such is the case for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who need 600 micrograms and 500 micrograms, respectively. [5]

Vitamin B9 toxicity, or getting too much vitamin B9, is very rare because this vitamin is water soluble. Water soluble vitamins are expelled through urination daily, thus deficiency is far more of a concern than toxicity. In addition to the vitamin-rich food that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat, they’re commonly recommended to take vitamin B9 supplements to ensure that they’re getting enough for them and their babies.

As for vitamin B9 naturally occurring in food, lentils were found to have the highest concentration. 1 cup of lentils yields 358.38 micrograms of Vitamin B9. [6] Other foods that contain high amounts of vitamin B9 are asparagus, spinach, broccoli, and other green, leafy vegetables.

However, it’s worth noting that canned or processed food contain a significantly reduced amount of Vitamin B9, and retention of this vitamin in cooking depends on the food and the method of cooking used. [7] For instance, spinach and broccoli retained its vitamin B9 content when steamed while loss of the same vitamin content was noted at 44% to 49% when the same vegetables were boiled. In contrast, boiling potatoes with their skin intact did not result in loss of vitamin B9 content. For this reason, Vitamin B9 supplements are recommended to ensure adequate daily intake.


[1] Neural Tube Defects. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

[2] Can Folic Acid Ease Depression? Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center.

[3] Folic acid prevents depressive-like behavior induced by chronic corticosterone treatment in mice. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.

[4] Oral folic acid and vitamin B-12 supplementation to prevent cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults with depressive symptoms–the Beyond Ageing Project: a randomized controlled trial. US National Library of Medicine.

[5] Food Sources of Folate. Dietitians of Canada.

[6] Folate. The World’s Healthiest Foods.

[7] The effect of different cooking methods on folate retention in various foods that are amongst the major contributors to folate intake in the UK diet. US National Library of Medicine.

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